In 1990 Naomi Judd was diagnosed with hepatitis C that she contracted as a result of a needle stick injury when she worked as a nurse. The prognosis was not good and she went through painful treatment that made it impossible for her to continue the touring rigors of her country music stardom. At that time there was an overbearing negative stigma against all people with hepatitis and all liver diseases – it was “their fault.” As a result, access to needed specialized treatment was limited and liver disease research was minimal. Clearly, this “blame the victim” societal view of hepatitis had its consequences for the 30 million, men, women and children with liver diseases and over five million with hepatitis at that time.
“I met Naomi in 1995 shortly after I became the CEO/President of the American Liver Foundation (ALF) –see photo. I witnessed firsthand what Naomi contributed in the fight against hepatitis and liver diseases. While a number of celebrities affected by liver diseases contributed in many ways, Naomi was a standout – she was my hero. “Alan P. Brownstein, former ALF Chief Executive Officer
Even though Naomi was ill and fatigued with hepatitis C, she made sure it wasn’t all about her. She stepped-up big time as the public face for hepatitis C as she became the national spokesperson for ALF spreading awareness and raising money for hepatitis C and all liver diseases. She made a big difference.
I know this to be true as I witnessed her persistent public visibility lead to hepatitis and liver disease transitioning from a largely stigmatized and ignored illness to becoming mainstream with congressional research funding increasing more than 300% in just a few years matched by a huge growth in liver specialists. Indeed, Naomi deserves much credit in lifting diseases of the liver out of the shadows.
And while Naomi’s singing voice was loved by millions of her fans, her advocacy and public awareness voice benefited over 30 million Americans with hepatitis/liver diseases. And even though she was fatigued by hepatitis, the following is a partial list of the many ways she selflessly contributed to fight hepatitis/liver disease:
Naomi will be missed, but more than anyone else I know, she was pivotal in changing the way hepatitis and liver disease was perceived and funded in the United States. With much sadness she is gone, but what she set in motion lives on to benefit millions. Thank you Naomi.