Liver patient helps establish unique peer support group

Larry Wong is one of the five million Canadians who are living with some form of liver disease. Diagnosed as a hepatitis B carrier in 1985 when he tried to donate blood, Larry did not have any symptoms until about four years later.

He describes feeling exhausted, nauseous and weak. Going to Emergency did not provide any relief, as he was told to go home and rest.

Fortunately for the 69-year-old, the Toronto Centre for Liver Disease located at Toronto General Hospital offers him access to the most advanced treatments, customized care plans, peer-to-peer patient support, outreach into communities, education and expertise in many liver diseases.

It wasn’t until Larry came to the Liver Clinic that he was put on medication that allows him to lead a normal life, with no symptoms. Larry has been able to take trips to Hong Kong, and to golf resorts in Pebble Beach, Scotland and Costa Rica.

Larry Wong, 69, is a co-founder of the Centre’s one-of-a-kind, peer-to-peer Chinese support group, helping to educate patients about hepatitis B and its treatment options.  Hepatitis B is highly prevalent in China, the Philippines and other areas of South East Asia. Nurse Practitioner Colina Yim says that about 90 patients attend the group’s events and seminars.

“We answer a lot of questions during these events,” Colina says, adding that the group also learns about nutrition and other ways of supporting each other throughout their illness. “We teach them how to have a heathy life, not just a healthy liver.”

Larry agrees: “I’m positive,” he says, “I tell the support group if you look after yourself, have good medical care, you’ll be fine. I use myself as an example. Here I am. I’m on medication, and I’m enjoying myself. It works!”

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