Woman Has to Undergo a Liver Transplant After Nose Piercing Leads to Life-Threatening Condition

abc7 Dana Smith

A New York woman is recovering after a nose piercing infection led to a life-threatening condition, causing her to need a liver transplant.

Queens resident Dana Smith, 37, got a nose piercing shortly after Thanksgiving, CBS New York reported Thursday.

About a month later, Smith started to have stomach pains but was hesitant to go to the hospital because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to CBS New York, Smith described her symptoms as "stomach pain. I felt like I kind of lost appetite."

"I didn't want to go to the hospital with COVID going on," she explained to the outlet. But the pain got so bad that "it got to the point where I felt like I didn't have a choice."

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"I was just drinking water, I couldn't hold the water down," Smith told ABC 7, revealing that her symptoms escalated so much that she "started to throw up blood."

Her sister took her to Long Island Jewish Medical Center on Jan. 12, where doctors quickly assessed that she needed a liver transplant and was suffering from fulminant Hepatitis B, ABC 7 reported.

According to Merck Manual, fulminant Hepatitis is "a rare syndrome of rapid (usually within days or weeks), massive necrosis of liver parenchyma and a decrease in liver size" that "usually occurs after infection with certain hepatitis viruses, alcoholic hepatitis, or drug-induced liver injury (DILI)."

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Smith was transferred to North Shore University Hospital and placed into a medically-induced coma while waiting for a match for the transplant. One was found within 48 hours, and she had surgery on Jan. 17.

Though doctors were quick to diagnose Smith, what caused the fulminant Hepatitis B was initially a mystery.

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Through a process of elimination, medical professionals determined that the culprit was an infection from the nose piercing that had gone undetected.

"This was the one unique change that had taken place in her life, this nose ring," said Northwell's Transplant Services Director Dr. Lewis Teperman. "And it's the perfect time for the virus to incubate."

Smith, who returned home on Jan. 26, credits the decision to finally go to the hospital with saving her life — and is sharing her story so that she might help someone else who needs to go to the hospital receive treatment.

"It's very overwhelming. Emotionally, everything, mentally," she told ABC 7.

To CBS New York, Smith added, "Even with COVID going on, you should still go get checked out because you never know. That one decision saved my life."