By Louise Vincent / Filter

In the hospital, I had no idea what the diagnoses they had given me meant, neither the MRSA part—referring to a group of bacteria that cause hard-to-treat staph infections—nor hepatitis C.

But I learned many lessons. One was that we need to inform ourselves when nobody else takes the trouble. Hospital policy and our medical system create deadly barriers for people who use drugs. We are then not able to access the help we need and are left to deal with life-threatening infections by ourselves. When they have security searches and room sitters, leave us in pain and withdrawal and refuse to allow any guests for us, we leave against medical advice.

My developing these infections had really been a toss-up, it turned out. People who inject drugs are at their most vulnerable to hep C transmission in their first two years of injecting. I would hypothesize that this vulnerability has only increased at a time when more people, in my experience, now begin their drug use injecting, rather than coming to it via snorting or smoking.

I hoped I would never have another experience like that, but that is not my reality.

Here I am again. Here is the truth, after seven or eight months of shame and secrecy. Throughout that time, I have been hiding wounds and abscesses. Terrified, I have taken different assortments of antibiotics from Canada, and watched myself get closer to death day by day.