The diagnosis was right on the nose.
Queens woman Dana Smith, 37, nearly died after contracting an infection from a nose piercing.
Smith was rushed to the hospital in late January with a mysterious infection that doctors later learned was connected to the $60 piercing.
She told CBS New York that she had lost her appetite in the weeks after implanting the tiny diamond stud above her left nostril on a whim during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Soon after realizing she wasn’t able to tolerate food, Smith began experiencing severe stomach pain.
“I didn’t want to go to the hospital with COVID going on,” she told the station. “It got to the point where I felt like I didn’t have a choice.”
Her liver began to fail, and she was placed in a medically induced coma shortly after arriving at Long Island Jewish and North Shore University Hospital.
There, doctors diagnosed Smith with very rare liver failure.
“Fulminant liver failure is when you’re perfectly healthy, you acquire a virus, and within two months you fall into a coma,” said Dr. Lewis Tepperman, transplant director at the Sandra Atlas Center for Liver Disease at North Shore University Hospital.
When she awoke from her coma, Smith learned that the infection had gotten so bad, the medical team had given her a liver transplant.
“I just though I just had a stomach virus or just something with my stomach,” Smith said. “I never would have though that my liver was failing and there was a chance that I might not have been here today.”
By process of elimination, doctors discovered that Smith’s nose piercing had become infected with hepatitis B, which onset her ailments.
“We couldn’t figure it out until all the tape was taken away from her nose,” Dr. Tepperman revealed.
“I said, ‘Look at that. When did you get that? It’s so tiny,’ and she then told us it was right at the end of Thanksgiving.”
Hospitals have seen a recent uptick in liver failure patients.
“I think that has to do with people not coming to the hospital readily enough, early enough to get treated,” Dr. Tepperman said.
Smith, a mother of a teenage daughter, is encouraging others to seek medical care as soon as they begin experiencing serious pain, discomfort or disease.
“Even with COVID going on, you should still go get checked out because you never know,” she said. “That one decision saved my life.”