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Long run to recovery

Tim Lickteig couldn’t help but recognize the irony.

Intravenous drug use 29 years ago led to his hepatitis C, but as part of his treatment for the condition, Lickteig had to inject himself with a shot every day for a year at his doctor’s orders.

Lickteig was out of options, though. His hepatitis C had led to Stage 3 liver disease—one step ahead of cirrhosis, which is permanent scarring of the liver that can lead to liver failure. He had already been through nearly a year’s worth of treatment involving a weekly injection and didn’t respond to that.

Dr. Kent Martin, a Medcenter One internal medicine physician and infectious disease specialist, sensed Lickteig’s desperation and took a calculated chance on an innovative treatment method. After the hepatitis C virus returned following Lickteig’s initial, conventional once-a-week treatment, Dr. Martin turned to the rarely used daily dose of an even stronger medication.

“It was the only thing I had even remote confidence would work,” said Dr. Martin, who called Lickteig’s case one of the worst he’s seen in his more than 10 years of treating hepatitis C.

Work the treatment did. Lickteig received his final injection Feb. 20. On Aug. 20, blood work revealed no signs of the hepatitis C virus, leading Dr. Martin to proclaim Lickteig cured. On Sept. 18, Lickteig, who has been sober for nearly 30 years, completed the Bismarck Marathon—a 26.2-mile testament to his perseverance and trust he put in Dr. Martin.

In April, Lickteig plans to participate in a much larger marathon. He’ll
  Tim Lickteig ran the Kroll's Diner Marathon to celebrate his battle with Hepatitis C
Tim Lickteig used running and a local support group to help himself get through a two-year battle against Hepatitis C. He celebrated his recovery last fall by running the Kroll's Diner Bismarck Marathon.
be a part of the American Liver Foundation’s Run for Research team at the 115th edition of the Boston Marathon.

“They were the most beautiful words I’ve heard in a long, long time,” Lickteig said of receiving the all clear from Dr. Martin. “At first, it was overwhelming almost, but then I was overcome with a great sense of gratitude.”

Dr. Kent Martin
Dr. Kent Martin
Internal medicine/
infectious disease specialist
The future didn’t always look so promising.

Throughout his treatment, Lickteig thought about quitting several times. The powerful drug he had to put in his body at first weekly and then daily caused severe flu-like symptoms. He only could work sporadically, and he lost 60 pounds in a two-year span.

“The mind games of the medicine were horrible,” Lickteig said. “It’s debilitating, and you lose a great deal of thought processes.”

Lickteig turned to a hepatitis support group that meets monthly at Medcenter One. Being around others in the various stages of treatment for the disease helped Lickteig persevere through the most trying of times.

“The support group was absolutely instrumental with me staying with the treatment and instrumental in me staying sane. It was a real blessing to be a part of that support group
both those years,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can learn from other people going through the same things that you have. It was really refreshing to be able to be open and forthright.”

Because of the hepatitis C, Lickteig’s liver is permanently damaged, though he’ll be able to live a normal life because his liver won’t deteriorate any more. Dr. Martin said there’s a 99 percent chance the disease won’t return.

It’s a comforting thought for Lickteig, especially after enduring two years of taxing treatment. He’s extremely grateful he was able to receive the innovative care and find a support group in Bismarck.

“How in the world do we have somebody of that stature and a leader in infectious diseases?” Lickteig said of Dr. Martin. “I don’t know if I would’ve done it without someone like him. He was absolutely without question one of the most integral parts of this treatment—his knowledge, his access, his understanding.”

Similarly, Dr. Martin marvels at what Lickteig has accomplished, particularly running a marathon half a year after completing his grueling injections.

“I was astounded. I knew he was motivated, but I didn’t know he was that motivated,” Dr. Martin said. “It’s amazing. It really is amazing.”

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