What Dr. Luke has to Say About Liver Disease

Liu Hua was 33 years old.  She had not felt well for several weeks and finally decided to go see her doctor.  He asked her what the problem was and she told him that she had been very tired for several months but the past several weeks she was really tired.  Before she thought it was related to her work which had been very busy in the past several months.  Now she wondered if something else was going on.  The doctor asked her questions, examined here and then drew some blood tests.  He told her he would call her with the blood tests in several days.

When the doctor called her back he told her that she could have some liver problems causing her fatigue.  Other blood tests and X-rays showed that she had Hepatitis B.  Upon further questioning the doctor found out that as a young child she had lived in a small rural village.  The doctor in that village had given her many shots when she had been sick.  Liu Hua’s doctor told her that her doctor may have re-used needles from other patients and one of those patients probably had Hepatitis B.  Liu Hua wanted to know more about Hepatitis B so the doctor gave her some information to read.

Liu Hua found out that two important causes of liver disease in China are Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.  These two diseases are caused by viruses which a person can get from either needles already used and thereby contaminated by Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C or from blood which is contaminated by these two organisms.  The Hepatitis B virus can also be transmitted by sexual transmission from one person who has the virus to another person who does not have the virus.

Liu Hua also found out that today in China over 2-3 million new cases of Hepatitis B and also of Hepatitis C are transmitted each year.  This is a large number of people. There are currently in China 10’s of millions of people who have both Hepatitis B and C.  In fact there may well be over 100 million people with Hepatitis B and C.

It is important to note that not everybody who has been infected with Hepatitis B and C develop liver disease.  Many do not.  However, up to 20-30% of patients with chronic liver disease  from Hepatitis B can develop liver cancer.   This is a major cause of cancer in China. 

The Hepatitis C virus is a major cause of chronic liver disease though patients with Hepatitis C do not get cancer.  They have a much more likely chance of developing liver failure from the Hepatitis C infection.  Thus both Hepatitis B and C are major health problems in China.

Liu Hua wondered what she could do.  Why was she given such a bad disease?  Why did the doctor reuse needles?  Didn’t the doctor know that these needles, if re-used, could spread disease to other patients?  She was very perplexed.  She began to wonder what her life was going to be like in the future.  She had fear but wanted hope.  What was she to do?

The Bible speaks to these important questions.  In the book of Psalms written about 1000BC by King David it says, ‘Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalms 103.1-5).’

These sentences speak not only powerfully to Liu Hua’s situation but also to many people all over the world.  King David starts by praising God with all of his soul.  Why does he praise God?  Because of all the benefits the Lord God had given to him.  Notice the benefits given to David and also available for us.  First, forgiveness of sins.  Second, healing of your diseases; this is especially important for Liu Hua’s situation. God is a God who is in control of the world and willingly heals diseases.  Thirdly, God redeems us for the pit.  Fourth, he crowns us with love and compassion.  Even while sick and cannot be healed compassion is important.  Fifthly, he satisfies our desires.  All of these so that our youth is renewed like an eagle’s.  These are certainly great promises for anyone and especially for someone like Liu Hua.

There is story in the Bible about a woman who had been afflicted with a disease for many years.  Let us look at this story.  ‘As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him, that is Jesus, and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. ‘ Who touched me?’  Jesus asked?  When they all denied it, Peter said, Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.  But Jesus said, ‘someone touched me: I know that power has gone out from me.’  Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet.  In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then he, that is Jesus, said to her. ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace (Luke 8.42-48).’  This passage of the Bible shows Jesus’ great compassion for people and how he also has power over diseases.

Why would Jesus do these things and what difference does it really make?  Eventually all people will die anyway, even Liu Hua.  First, these headings do show Jesus Christ’s compassion towards humanity.  Second, they show he has power over disease and sickness today.  But third and most important they show that he has a further goal in his healing.  It says in another portion of the Bible that ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20.30,31).’  The main reason Jesus did so many great and miraculous healings is that we might believe in him and have eternal life in his name.  Life not just now but forever more.  This is a really great thing to know about.

Before talking about life in Jesus we must realize that Jesus gave us many commands to heal and help our fellow man.  What kinds of treatments are there for Hepatitis B and C?  Before treatments we should first talk about prevention.  How can Hepatitis B and C be prevented? First, we should avoid using needles, which have been used by other people.  If like Liu Hua’s doctor they are being re-used, then you should ask your doctor if their needles are new and have never been used on animals or humans before.  Second, you should make sure they any blood or blood products used are free of Hepatitis B or C.  There are tests, which can show whether blood has Hepatitis B or C or even the AIDS virus in it.  These tests can be readily done in China.  Ask you doctor if these tests have been done before you have surgery and need blood.  Third, in the case of transmission of Hepatitis B avoid sexual contact with any person who has Hepatitis B.  Recall only Hepatitis B is transmitted sexually and not Hepatitis C.

A second way of prevention is related to vaccine use.  There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B but not for Hepatitis C. The Hepatitis B vaccine is now being given to children in China.  This is very good news.  In 20 years Hepatitis should be significantly reduced in China.  If you have been exposed to Hepatitis B then getting the vaccine will not help you.  However, if you have Hepatitis B and it is not adversely affecting you then the Hepatitis B you have will give you lifelong protection.  The Hepatitis B vaccine is relatively expensive, so if you have not had it, it will be very expensive.  However, it is a good vaccine to get because you would never have to worry about getting Hepatitis B either from contaminated blood or needles not properly cleaned.

The second main type of treatment, other than prevention, is medications for those people who have active liver infections caused by Hepatitis B and C.  Up until less than ten years ago there were no medications for these liver diseases and many people died from these two liver infections.  But in the past 10 years many new medications have been developed for Hepatitis B and C.  These medications are very expensive.  Though present in China they are available on a limited basis.

However, these medicines are helpful in that in some, though not all patients, they can be completely cured of their Hepatitis B or C.  This is certainly good news.  If you have Hepatitis B or C ask your doctors about these medicines.  As the medical insurance markets open up in China there is good reason to think that the insurance plans will start paying for these expensive medications.

Another important aspect of treatment of patients with Hepatitis B and C liver problems is to avoid medications and alcohol.  Many medications can cause liver problems.  If a person already has underlying liver damage from Hepatitis B or C some medications and certainly alcohol can make already damaged livers worse.  Thus avoid alcohol and check with your doctor before taking medications and this certainly would include both western and Chinese traditional medicines.

Most people like Liu Hua who have chronic Hepatitis B and C do not feel good.  Many die after years of not feeling well.  In fact most after a time feel so bad they cannot even do their work.  No one wants to feel bad and no one wants to die early.  How, can people feel better?  First, they can do the things described above.  Second, they can realize that Jesus Christ came to give us life.  Recall the lady with the bleeding problem we just talked about.  Also recall the sentence read just a while ago which said that Jesus did these miracles so that we could believe in him and by believing have life in His name.

Jesus promised that this life has two components.  One is life both here and now in the world we live in. Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life and might have it more abundantly (John 10.10).’  Second, he stated that ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3.16).’  We can have life both now and forever more.  This is the promise of life we have through Jesus Christ.  Jesus can heal us of our illnesses and diseases and he can also provide life both now and forevermore. 

Someone like Liu Hua may ask, ‘how can I have this life?’  This life only comes through Jesus Christ.  It does not come through anything we do, nor from anything we can buy.  We cannot work for it, we cannot earn it, and we cannot buy this life.  It is given to us as a gift.

The Bible speaks like this in a book written to people in the city of Rome about 63AD, ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a god man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.6-8).’  We did nothing to earn Christ’s love for us.  While we were still doing wrong Jesus Christ died for us to save us from our sins.  He took on himself our sins so that we could live forever and not have to bear our sins before God.  It was given to us as a gift.

The Bible also says in the book to the Romans, ‘that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10.9,10).’  If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Universe and our lives and that he died on the Cross for our sins and that after he died that God raised him from the dead to show God’s power over sin and death we will be saved.

If you desire to have this eternal life then pray this prayer with me, ‘Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner.  I believe that you died on the Cross-to save me from my sins.  I believe that after you died on the Cross you were buried and three days later rose to new life so that I may have eternal life.’  If you have prayed this prayer you are now a child of Jesus Christ the eternal King.