Randy Valimont got a routine colonoscopy about a decade ago, maybe more.
The Army veteran was living in Las Vegas. After the test, he went on with his life.
Then several years later, after Valimont left Nevada for the Tri-Cities, he got a phone call that stopped him in his tracks.
The Las Vegas clinic where he’d gotten the colonoscopy used poor sterilization practices, exposing Valimont and dozens of other patients to Hepatitis C.
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Valimont got tested, and he was infected.
Now 65, the Richland man is doing well. He took a course of the drug Harvoni and is cured.
As a result of his experience, he has a mission: raise awareness about Hepatitis C.
Baby Boomers are disproportionately affected. So are veterans, whose training and combat experiences mean a greater chance of exposure.
The liver disease can progress without obvious symptoms, and veterans are at higher risk than the general population.
“All veterans should get tested and treated,” Valimont said.
Hepatitis C can lead to long-term health problems, including liver failure and even death. It’s spread through blood-to-blood contact.
More than 3 million people in the U.S. have the disease.
Baby Boomers are disproportionately affected. So are veterans, whose training and combat experiences can mean a greater chance of exposure.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this year expanded access to Hepatitis C treatment for veterans, backed by increased funding from Congress, because of the numbers.
Valimont didn’t contract the disease during his time in the military, but the fact that he’s a veteran makes the cause particularly close to his heart.
The 65-year-old was born in Pasco, moving to Idaho as a young boy. He eventually ended up in Florida, joining the military not long after high school.
He served in the Vietnam War.
“I turned 21 in Triple Canopy Jungle,” Valimont said.
In his Richland home, he pulled out his old boonie hat and a photo album, reminiscing as he flipped through the pages.
Valimont’s case of Hepatitis C came as a shock. He hadn’t experienced symptoms.
At first, he was told his liver was severely damaged and he was at an advanced stage of the disease. He later learned he was in an earlier stage and in better shape than the medical professional originally thought.
He’s glad the chapter is behind him. He wants others to have the same kind of ending when it comes to Hepatitis C.
“All the vets should get tested. There were a lot of transfusions (during the war). They might have had it all this time and not known it,” Valimont said. “It’s a call (for awareness), a little alarm for everybody.”