Once upon a time in history, all the major human body organs gathered at the town square for a debate competition.
This argument about who was the most important human body organ had to be settled once and for all.
Speaking at this important debate competition were the brain, the heart, the liver, the reproductive organs and the kidney.
Who had the facts? Who had the figures? Who had the message to convince everyone that it is the most important of all the human body organs?
The moderator for the event, Honorable Stomach, took the microphone to spell out the rules of the debate, “You have 5 minutes each to speak. After your speech, any organ gathered here can ask a question. It will be in your own interest to answer the question as precisely as you can. Good luck to all the contestants.”
The balloting was done quickly and the first to speak was the liver.
The mighty organ, dressed in a reddish brown attire, rose and spoke:
“Mr. Chairman, good afternoon. Today, I am sad and happy at the same time. I am sad because my fellow contestants (the Brain, Heart, Reproductive organs and Kidneys) know the truth. They know I am the best thing ever to happen to the human body but they have refused to admit it. However, I am happy that I have the platform to tell the world how important I am and the need to keep me healthy. I will share some of my likes and dislikes and then proceed to clear a few misconceptions about me. I am located in the right upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity just below the diaphragm. I come in different weights and sizes but I weigh approximately 1.5kg and 10-15cm in size for an adult human body. I am very important to the human body because I perform the following functions:
“First of all, I filter all of the blood in the body and break down poisonous substances such as alcohol and drugs. Without me, there will be an overwhelming buildup of dangerous chemicals in the body. Again, I produce bile, a fluid that helps digest fats and carry away waste. That is not all Mr. chairman, I also store glycogen, vitamins and minerals for the human body. I aid in the synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin, and clotting factors (prevents you from bleeding to death when you have a cut).
“In fact, I am so important to the human body that God, in his own wisdom, decided to give me a lot of strength and regenerative ability. (Even if about 70% of the liver is damaged, you can still live a meaningful life). Unfortunately, when I am damaged completely, there is no way the whole human body can survive.
“It goes without saying that I should be protected at all times. I dislike a lot of things but for the purpose of this debate, I will highlight only 2 of them. First is alcohol. Too much alcohol is not good for me. Chronic alcohol abuse causes destruction of liver cells, which results in scarring of the liver and may lead to liver cancer. I strongly advise that anyone under the sound of my voice will limit showering me with huge alcohol doses.
“Viral Hepatitis comes next. Mr. Chairman, permit me to address some frequently asked questions about the hepatitis virus vis-à-vis the liver. What is the difference between hepatitis A and hepatitis B? Hepatitis A is an infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). This virus is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. Hepatitis A is highly contagious and it is spread when someone ingests the virus through close contact with an infected person or, through eating contaminated food or drink. Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, and jaundice. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A is to get vaccinated. Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. It may be acute or chronic. What is Acute Hepatitis B? Simply put, Acute Hepatitis B occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus. It may present with no or very mild symptoms but sometimes, the symptoms may aggravate to the extent that it requires hospitalisation.
“What is Chronic Hepatitis B? If you encounter the virus in your adulthood, most times, the body is able to clear the virus without treatment. If you encounter the virus as a child, it may lead to a life-long infection known as chronic Hepatitis. Age, therefore, plays a role in whether Hepatitis B can become chronic. The younger a person is when infected with the Hepatitis B virus, the greater the chance of developing chronic infection. How common is Hepatitis B?
“As of 2019, the World Health Organisation had estimated that 296 million people were living with Hepatitis B worldwide with 1.5 million new infections each year. How is Hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B is spread through blood, semen or other body fluids. People can become infected with the virus from birth (spread from a mother who has hepatitis B to her baby during birth), sexual intercourse with a partner who has Hepatitis B, sharing needles, toothbrushes and razors. Hepatitis B is not usually spread through food or water, unlike Hepatitis A. What do I do if I am exposed to the Hepatitis B virus?
“Seek prompt medical attention if you have been exposed to Hepatitis B virus. Infection can be prevented if you get the Hepatitis B vaccine and/or a shot called “HBIG” (Hepatitis B immune globulin) as soon as possible after exposure to the virus, ideally within 24 hours.
“Can I donate blood if I have hepatitis B? No. It is not advisable for anyone with Hepatitis B or experiencing symptoms of viral Hepatitis to donate blood.
“Can hepatitis B be prevented? Yes. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective.
“Is the Hepatitis B vaccine safe during pregnancy? Yes. The Hepatitis B vaccine is safe during pregnancy. Even if the mother is vaccinated, the baby has to be vaccinated too after childbirth. Is getting extra doses of Hepatitis B vaccine harmful? No, getting extra doses of Hepatitis B vaccine is not harmful.
What should I do if my Hepatitis B vaccination is not completed? If the Hepatitis B vaccine series is interrupted, the next dose should be given as soon as possible. The first dose(s) does not need to be repeated. Does everyone with chronic Hepatitis B need to take medicine?
Not everyone with chronic Hepatitis B needs treatment. Your doctor will run some tests and consider a lot of factors before starting you on medications. Medications, when started, may be taken for a long time or even for life. There are many people out there trying to sell a cure but truth is, currently, chronic Hepatitis B is not curable.
However, there are effective antivirals that can control the replication of the virus and prevent liver damage.”
“Mr. Chairman, I can see that my time is almost up but I cannot sit down without addressing this issue. There is a popular misconception that mothers who have Hepatitis B cannot breastfeed. Contrary to that belief, let it be known that Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted to the baby through breast milk. Special credit to Professor Yaw Asante Awuku (President of Ghana Association of the study of liver and digestive diseases) and all doctors around the world who are doing their best to combat diseases that affect the liver.”
After the presentation by the liver, there were thunderous claps from every corner. The moderator for the debate, honorable stomach, asked for questions from the crowd. To his surprise, no questions came up.
“If after a presentation there are no questions, it means two things: either everyone understood everything you said or, no one understood anything from what you said,” Honorable Stomach joked as he ushered the Liver back into his seat.
The writer, Dr. Gideon Assan, is a young medical practitioner with particular interest in health advocacy and digital health