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Citizens asked to donate to James Meeks fund; $10,000 goal to cover medical treatment

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    When James Meeks stepped into a tattoo parlor about 20 years ago, he didn't know he would leave with more than a little ink under his skin.
    Fifteen years later, after he was taken by ambulance to an Augusta hospital, Meeks learned he had contracted Hepatitis C and that the virus caused cirrhosis of his liver. He now needs a liver transplant in order to live a normal life.
    "It came as a big shock," said Meeks, a Sylvania native.
    Hepatitis C spreads when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected, and is often transmitted through the use of dirty needles. While he has no way of knowing for sure, Meeks points to the tattoo parlor as the place where he most likely contracted the disease.
    According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 80 percent of people infected with Hepatitis C have no signs or symptoms. The virus causes inflammation and minor damage to the liver that over several decades can lead to cirrhosis.
    "A lot of people seem to believe that cirrhosis of the liver only comes from heavy drinking. They believe that people who have it are self destructive," said Meeks' sister Marie Williams, "But my brother didn't do this to himself. He worked hard every single day of his life."
    The 46-year-old Meeks was born in Georgia and has lived in Sylvania for almost two decades. Until he became too sick to work, he operated heavy equipment for several different construction companies. Meeks said he is now "totally disabled" and fights chronic fatigue every day.
    "I'm so weak I can't hardly do anything. It's aggravating, because all I want to do is go back to work," Meeks said.
    A liver transplant is the only way for Meeks' condition to improve. He has attended a series of classes that are required for people who hope to be put on the transplant list. In addition to the classes, Meeks must prove that he can pay for the necessary medication following the transplant. The medicine is very expensive.
    "His Medicare will cover 80 percent of the cost," Williams said, "But he has to have $10,000 in an account  to prove that for 1 year he can pay for 20 percent of his medicine."
    Meeks and his family are asking for help in achieving this goal. Donations can be sent to the James Dwayne Meeks Transplant and Recovery Fund at the BB&T Bank in Sylvania. Call (912) 865-2949 for more information about the fund.
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