Demystifying Hepatitis C for Native Americans: Antonio Gonzalez's Story

When Antonio Gonzalez was diagnosed with hepatitis C in Geneva, Switzerland, doctors told him if he didn't get a new liver within five years, he didn't stand a chance at a long life. As he waited for a new liver, Gonzalez thought about all the moments he'd miss. He wanted to be around for his son's graduation.

Gonzalez hadn't even heard of hepatitis C when he was diagnosed, and didn't know how he got it. A Native American and member of the Comcáac nation, he surmised that he was probably infected with hepatitis C while fighting in Vietnam, where he suffered from many major open wounds.

While he was sick, Gonzalez put together a box of things that people could remember him by after he passed away. When he finally got his liver transplant in 2005, he was able to unpack the box and begin living again. "So beautiful to receive a liver and to unpack, like, 'I'm not going anywhere!'" he said.

According to Gonzalez, the Native-American community knows very little about hepatitis C and even less about liver transplants. "There are no words, we have no experience, no songs, no stories to tell us of something else living inside of us," he shared in a video made by the National Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the Native-American population is small in number compared to other ethnic minorities, it actually faces much higher rates for hepatitis C than any other ethnic minority in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Watch Gonzalez's story below.

Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @mathewrodriguez, like his Facebook page or visit him on his personal website.