LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Queens woman is recovering from a near-death experience. A mystery infection got so bad, she needed a liver transplant.

Doctors ultimately traced the infection to her new nose ring, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

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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.

Smith, 37 and a mom, started feeling sick a month later.

“Stomach pain. I felt like I kind of lost appetite,” she said.

Then she couldn’t eat or drink, and was reluctant to go to the hospital.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital with COVID going on,” Smith said. “It got to the point where I felt like I didn’t have a choice.”

COVID VACCINE

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 the Sandra Atlas Center for Liver Disease at North Shore University Hospital.

Smith woke up days later and learned she had a liver transplant.

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“I just though I just had a stomach virus or just something with my stomach. I never would have though that my liver was failing and there was a chance that I might not have been here today,” said Smith.

The mystery culprit: her nose piercing had become infected with hepatitis B. Doctors said 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 then told us it was right at the end of Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Tepperman

Mystery solved.

But doctors say they’ve seen an uptick in liver failure.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“I think that has to do with people not coming to the hospital readily enough, early enough to get treated,” Dr. 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.

“Even with COVID going on, you should still go get checked out because you never know,” Smith said. “That one decision saved my life.”

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Doctors recommend a hepatitis B vaccine for everyone, especially those considering a piercing.

Carolyn Gusoff