Greg Jefferys Hepatitis C blog deals with all the issues associated with hepatitis C
A couple of days after Gerry died last week I decided to write a memorial to this man who so quietly helped so many people.
At the time it seemed like it would be an easy enough thing to do but I soon realized that trying to condense a life of 62 years into a few lines, or even pages, is no easy task. Particularly when the fact was that I had only known Gerry for five years and only via email and Facebook. We had never sat down for a cup of tea or a beer or whatever, with time to chat and share on that level.
Yet, despite that limited form of communion, I felt very close to Gerry and his passing affected me deeply.
So here is my attempt at a memorial for Gerry Nealon
Gerry Nealon and I first met by email back at the beginning of 2016. Gerry had Hep C and had heard about what I was doing, organizing the shipment of generic Hep C medication to people with Hep C, all around the world.
Gerry, like me, had caught Hep C through sharing needles during drug use and was feeling the effects of the virus in his system. At that time Ireland only offered Interferon based Hep C treatment. Gerry had tried to cure his Hep C with Interferon through the Irish health system but had failed the treatment. He told me that the side effects of the Interferon had been horrific and probably caused more damage to his liver and general health than Hep C.
By 2015 the Hep C was really starting to bring him down so the prospect of effective treatment without side effects caught his attention and raised his hopes of finally getting rid of the Hep C virus.
At that time Ireland, like many countries in Europe, would not allow citizens to import generic Hep C medication for personal use. It was a policy the Irish government-enforced very strongly. Gerry had heard that I would do whatever it took to get people their meds so we worked out a way.
Because the UK had the opposite policy to Ireland in regards to importing medication we decided to send the meds via the UK. The UK allowed its citizens to import just about any medication for personal use. So Gerry arranged for his meds to be sent to a friend in Northern Ireland and he slipped across the border, picked up his generic Harvoni, and returned home.
That was the beginning of a long friendship.
As soon as he had his medication Gerry started helping other people in Ireland and people across all of Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, to access generic Hep C treatment.
But more importantly, Gerry became very active in various online Hep C forums, particularly on Facebook and particularly in the Facebook group I founded with Gitan and Alexander Macrae, called Hepatitis C Treatment Without Borders. He saw that the online forum as a great way to help people who had no other way of getting access to Hep C treatment or even good information about Hepatitis C.
When Hepatitis C Treatment w/o Borders was hijacked by Jacki Chan and I was blocked from the group that I co-founded, Gerry played an important “under-cover” in W/O Borders role to alert members to what had happened and he personally moved many hundreds of members across into my new Hep C group Hepatitis C Treatment Cure and Community. Gerry’s help in the early stages of my new group launched the group and ensured its growth
Gerry is known in the Hep C world as a leading advocate for people with Hep C. He did a lot of online work helping people to access Hep C treatment and was always there for people needing information about Hepatitis C treatment options. As I mentioned Gerry helped me set up the new Facebook group Hepatitis C Treatment, Cure, and Community and was on the Admin team from the beginning.
Gerry’s dedication to helping people was such that he basically stayed online and active in the group 24 hours a day, offering advice, support and guidance when it was needed and keeping things running smoothly. However because he took his role in the group so seriously it began to wear him down and after a couple of years, he gave up the formal Admin role and opted just to be a helpful group member.
Apart from his work with Hepatitis C Gerry was an advocate for many other social justice issues including the decriminalization of drug use.
Gerry was born in Dublin 1959 on the 30th of May, into a good Irish family. He was the fourth child of eight. Gerry had two sisters and five brothers. His brother John was telling me that all the kids were born almost exactly a year apart.
The family was comfortable as their father was an advertising agency director. Gerry got the nickname “Taste”, because he was always hungry and he loved biting things. John went on to tell me that they were a happy family and always went away down the country for the summer holidays.
People who knew Gerry growing up, say that he was his own man and he wasn’t influenced by others around him.
When he was around 19 or 20 he got a local publican/ politician’s daughter pregnant. Her father thought he wasn’t good enough for his daughter (as I think he was working in McDonald’s at the time). Gerry followed this girl over to England where her dad sent her while she was pregnant to have the baby adopted. It was probably while he was in London that Gerry started smoking weed and getting into other drugs.
Gerry then went through most of his adult life going from job to job. He never stayed anywhere for a long time. He had become a stoner, as they called people then who liked to have a smoke. When he got back from London Gerry stayed in Dublin.
Gerry was always fighting for a good cause and it could be a different one every so often, but normally a very worthy cause.
You could never argue with him about said cause at the time because he would blow you out of the water with facts, figures and dates. He was very knowledgeable and was a great supporter of the old IRA, and republicanism in Ireland from 1916.
He was a great guy who took on a good deed and stuck with it. Gerry has another two grandchildren along with his treasured Holly who is Matt’s daughter. Then only last year Gerry discovered that he had another son in Australia called Brian, who also had a daughter who was called Erin. For reasons best known to herself, Brian’s mother never got in touch with Gerry to even say that she was pregnant. So in the last two years, Gerry suddenly had two sons and a daughter and three grandchildren who he sadly never got to meet.
He was only diagnosed with cancer around October or November last year.
Thin Lizzy, Joan Armatrading, The Beatles are all music that he loved growing up.
One thing I’ve learned is just how many people Gerry kept personal contact with. Although it was through social media, he wrote many friends words of personal encouragement when needed and always asked folks to message him if they needed help or just a shoulder to lean on. His concern and care for so many people he never met and only knew through FB groups was just amazing. And then he had your back- always
Greg Jefferys Gerry was so very supportive of people in the Hep C FB community, especially in the early stages about 5 years ago, when we were all hunting the generics to be cured. I will always remember how he would offer sound, informed advice and encouragement on a regular basis to all inflicted with “the dragon”…RIP Gerry. You’ll always be fondly remembered by me.. he was an integral part of my journey back to health
Hi Greg for Gerry’s memorial: When I first talked with Gerry on our HepC site I thought oh boy this guy is a real weirdo with the things he says, but I kept on talking with him and he turned out to be such a genuine, vulnerable person whom I quickly trusted and loved. He was still strange but to me he was a friend in my recovery
Gerry was very left wing and had very strong Irish Republican views. Sometimes he had a short fuse in political discussions but tried to be understanding that others were entitled to opposing views.