Kim Clementi described dealing with her husband, Vic's, sickness as being "in the middle of the hurricane."
"It's just so hectic, so chaotic, and the person with hepatitis C is just so ill," she said over the phone last week. Ten minutes later, she was taking him to Carson-Tahoe Hospital because of dangerously low sodium levels.
The emergency room staff has seen a lot of the Clementis since Vic's diagnosis eight months ago. Helping them deal with having their lives "turned upside down" are two monthly support groups at the hospital.
"They're life savers," said Kim Clementi of the hepatitis C group, which meets the third Monday of every month; and Paul Saucedo's liver transplant group, which meets every third Thursday.
"There's just so many things that they help us with in our everyday life because your life is just not the same after you get that diagnosis," she said.
For example, each week Clementi has up to 25 pounds of toxic fluid, which builds up because of liver failure, drained through a catheter in his stomach.
"By the end of the week, he's just absolutely miserable," said Kim Clementi. "It's like being nine months' pregnant with triplets, but he's skin and bones everywhere else."
Clementi, a cabinetmaker who worked on the remodeling of the Governor's Mansion, has lost 60 pounds.
The support groups are an educational resource, giving information about medication, travel between care centers and how to properly present patients' situation to doctors for fast, effective treatment.
"Paul helped (Kim Clementi) prepare for an appointment with the specialist," said Sandy Curl, who organizes the support group.
Saucedo told Clementi to organize her thoughts with an outline and bring photos of her husband's physical changes.
"He was a functioning person a year ago -- even nine months ago. Now he looks like one of those people in Africa who is starving to death."
When Clementi's esophagus ruptured in February, filling his stomach with blood, his vomit contaminated the house and ambulance.
Hazardous-material cleanup crews secured the house with yellow tape and tore out carpets and sub-flooring then exposing the dirt beneath the bathroom floor.
"They came in here looking like they were going to the moon, in white suits with respirators," said Kim Clementi. A chemical used to decontaminate her home dissolved wall paint and changed the metal of doorknobs.
When ammonia levels in his system got so high that Vic Clementi became delusional at Christmas, his wife sent her 15-year-old daughter, Ginny, away for her own safety.
"We had to detox him and then hope that his mind came back, which it did," Clementi said.
The support groups have helped her deal with that kind of chaos.
"I've had people call and say, 'If you need someone to sit with Vic so you can go shop for groceries, here's my number,'" she said.
That's especially helpful because she has to spend hours in stores reading food packaging to monitor sodium levels for her husband.
But sometimes Clementi needs that kind of help just for a bit of rest.
"It's good to get out of the house, get away from the whole situation and just breathe. Because you have to take time to breathe, and you can't make it through this disease without support."
You Can Help
Send offers of help to:
285 E. Applegate Way
Carson City, NV 89706
The Victor Joseph Clementi Benefit Fund has been set up at Bank of America, account number 004966550823.
For more information on the support groups, call Sandy Curl at 883-5415 or Paul Saucedo at 883-3626.