LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. (WCBS) - A nose piercing went horribly wrong.
What started as a beauty statement ended up in a serious infection, and an organ transplant was needed to save her life.
The tiny diamond stud in Dana Smith’s nose was something she decided to get on a whim.
It only cost $60 but nearly cost her life.
The 37-year-old Queens mom started feeling sick a month later: “Stomach pain, I felt like I lost my appetite.”
Then she couldn’t eat or drink.
“I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I’m like, with COVID-19 going on. It got to the point I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” Smith said.
Doctors at Long Island Jewish and North Shore University hospital 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 Northwell Health.
Later, she woke up and learned she had liver transplant.
“I was pretty much shocked. I didn’t know what to think,” Smith said. “I just thought I had a stomach virus. I never would have thought that my liver was failing and there was a chance I might not be here today.”
The mystery culprit, her nose piercing, had become infected with Hepatitis B. Doctors say it was a process of elimination.
“We couldn’t figure it out until all the tape was taken away from her nose, and I said, ‘Look at that. When did you get that? It’s so tiny,’ and she told us it was right at the end of Thanksgiving,” Tepperman said.
Doctors said they’ve seen an uptick in liver failure.
“I think this has to do with people not coming to the hospital readily enough, early enough to be treated,” Tepperman said.
Smith is sharing her story to warn others that waiting too long to see a doctor or go to the hospital - even during the pandemic - can be a deadly mistake.
“If you feel something is wrong, even with COVID going on, you should still go and get checked out because you never know. That one decision saved my life,” Smith said.
Doctors recommend a Hepatitis B vaccine for everyone, especially those considering a piercing.