Tuesday, June 28, 2011

So now we know

We had a very early AM meeting with the doctors treating C's dad.  He has cirrhosis of the liver.  Although he hasn't had a drink in years,  his liver was likely compromised from contracting hepatitis and malaria during his war time duties in the Pacific.  Alcohol consumption for most of his life further added to stress on the liver.  The amount of alcohol it takes to damage the liver varies greatly from person to person. For women, consuming two to three drinks—including beer and wine—per day and for men, three to four drinks per day, can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis.

The bleeding that he has been experiencing is caused by esophageal varices.  As the liver works harder to process the bodies toxins,  blood pressure builds in the hepatic portal system.   Normally, blood from the intestines and spleen is carried to the liver through the portal vein.  But cirrhosis slows the normal flow of blood, which increases the pressure in the portal vein.  When pressure builds in the hepatic portal system, it may cause enlarged blood vessels in the esophagus, called varices.  He has a number of varices that are banded every time he goes into the hospital.  The enlarged blood vessels burst from the thin walls of the esophagus and increased pressure. When this happens, there is serious bleeding that can result in death if not treated immediately.

We did not know that he had cirrhosis until yesterday.  He was a heavy drinker for much of his life, tapering off as he got older.  Not too many years ago, he was in danger of developing type 2 diabetes and was told to change his diet and to cut out alcohol consumption.  He did that with no problem. 

I explained this to a friend last night who said, "Well, the liquor finally got him at age 90."  (There is actually a joke about this but will save that for another time).  When I think about someone in their forties or fifties with cirrhosis and dying from internal bleeding,  I realize how fortunate my father-in-law is that he has made it to age 90.  Now we know that at his age,  there isn't much that can be done other than to treat each emergency as it occurs.

But for those who are still out there drinking alcoholically,  there is still time.


  1. Excellent explanation of the liver function and how it has affected your family. Many drinkers keep right on drinking after the cirrhosis diagnosis, which shows that the illness of alcoholism is far worse than organ damage.

  2. oh man...ugh...prayers for him and those that need to quit still

  3. My father-in-law died of liver cancer and he never really drank much at all. Maybe on a holiday he would make a frozen drink. But during the war, one of his jobs was to delouse prisoners with DDT. Day in, day out. Plus, he was a farmer and handled pesticides frequently.
    It all adds up.
    I am so sorry to hear this. But still- 90? You gotta die of something.

  4. Thanks for the warning, buddy. I probably need it.

    I hope the dads rallies.

    Love you.

  5. I may need to print this pic for myself. Thanks

  6. I have friends with Hep C who are on waiting lists for a liver transplant. Their addictions weakened an already broken system. Your father in law is fortunate to have been free of symptoms till now.

  7. Good post to share here Syd.
    First off ..making it to 90
    is amazing for anyone,let alone
    a previously heavy drinker.
    Second,we all know someone at risk
    right now who still drink heavily.

    I hope you know how grateful I and
    other bloggers are to have someone
    like you among us to remind us our blogs make a difference when we share honestly from the heart.

    Thank you ! xo

  8. I loved your explanation -- very clear so that anyone can understand. As much research as I have done -- and I've done a lot -- I haven't read it the way you have explained. Thank you.

  9. Not diminishing the use of alcohol here but lets not forget the other contributing factors related to his service to the nation during the war. I had a friend caught a sand bug in Saudi Arabia 40 years ago as a marine protecting the US embassy. Took the damn thing 40 years and a lung + a few other things but it killed him long before his alcohol ever did.

  10. Very true, Mark, about his service during the war. He was also around a lot of solvents at that time without proper ventilation. I think that all are contributing to cirrhosis which can be caused by a myriad of factors. Still not a pretty thought but at 90, it is much easier to take than at 45.

  11. well, I guess it's good to know what you're dealing with finally...

    prayers continue for all of you


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