For this year’s World Tuberculosis day the working theme is “Leave no one behind. Unite to End TB”. Nigeria comes 4th place after China and is followed by Pakistan in the top 20 countries with highest estimated rates of people falling ill with TB. March 24 every year is set aside to create awareness on this disease. According to WHO 480 000 thousand people developed Mutidrug-resistant TB in the world in 2015.
I had to share this story of Debashree. Her first encounter with tuberculosis started out as being diagnosed with Multi drug resistant Tuberculosis on her first test during a brief illness. Imagine someone at the peak of her life, she was ready to take on the world. She just graduated amongst the top of her class, landed her first job and her parents were beyond excited. But all of that changed for the worse.
This is a story from the collection titled Nine Lives:Women and Tuberculosis In India by Chapal Mehrah and Zarah Udwadia
Men and Women are equally predisposed to tuberculosis. It was just a coincidence that i found this story on a woman and was intrigued by how it affected women. Besides, this is also International women’s month and this particular case highlights some of the challenges females face that i never even knew existed.
Tuberculosis is Ugly
Debashree lost her entire left lung to the disease. That sounds like some serious respiratory challenge. She recounts how In the course of treatment, She would vomit bowls of blood and when she complained to her doctor he disregarded it by saying ‘No, it happens’.
Debashree suffered serious mood swings due to side effects of the drugs she was taking. This is aside from the fact that there were “excruciatingly painful” injections, which she got 3 times daily. Thank God for a compassionate nurse who has now become like family to them
She lost speech and hearing, so her sister would have to follow her around to translate in sign language. Guilt and helplessness tormented her mostly over how things were seemingly out of her control. I guess it was not surprising that she considered death at this point. It was the lowest point of her life.
Things got uglier, when her sister contacted the disease because the doctors failed again, in their duty to educate the family on the contagious nature of the disease….How could they? This was happening in 2011 by the way!
Thank God she was able to receive immediate attention and she recovered quickly.
Over time Debashree developed orange skin and people (even friends) mocked her, ignorantly….. i guess. The social stigma that came with this worsened Debashree’s pain. Even when she suggested they wear masks, her friends would still mind meeting with her.
Her periods had stopped along the line and some people insinuated that she probably has lost her femininity. She was outraged at how people were going on about it and questioning the possibility of her getting married and having children. All that mattered to her was to stay alive at least.
Debashree lost weight to a 28kg shadow of herself. She had gone from a Multiple drug resistant TB patient to a Total Drug resistant TB patient. Now the doctors had written her case off. They said nothing more could be done. It was at this point that her family decided to look elsewhere for help.
Debashree resolved to focus on getting better. And after 6 months of intensive therapy with an experimental drug, that was approved for her on the grounds of mercy, her sputum test recorded signs of improvement. This was coming after 3 years.
Delayed diagnosis cost her and her middle-class family a lot of time and money. She eventually had to receive a cochlear implant to manage her hearing deficit. Mind you her doctors did not educate her on the side effects of the drugs that led to this hearing loss.
She has since gone back to working full time and shares her story with the hope to create awareness on the harsh realities of Tuberculosis
This story was published under the campaign Survivors Against TB. It is a community based movement, championed by TB survivors with the aim of strengthening India’s fight against TB. From TheQuint.com
Check out: How Tuberculosis shaped Victorian fashion
Important Lessons :
- TB is an air-borne disease: it travels through air droplets from a coughing or sneezing infected person. Infected persons must avoid crowded places. City pollution promotes the spread of TB
- TB has a characteristic latency: Someone can have the bacteria in their system and not be aware. The infected person will have no symptoms and cannot transmit the disease.
- Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. Early Diagnosis is key. Symptoms include: Coughing (maybe with mucus or blood), Chills, weakness, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite and sweating at night’. If you notice these symptoms please see a doctor
- Multi drug Resistance MDR-TB: TB that does not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most powerful anti-TB drugs. It is caused by mismanagement of treatment or transmission from one person to another, mostly in congested places.
- TB affects the lungs at first. However other organs can be affected on the long run
- Doctors are not always right. Try to get a second opinion, especially when you are in doubt.
- If you have TB you must eat healthy. Avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol. Eat fish, chicken, eggs, wheat based cereal. Eat lots of colored fruits and green leafy vegetable, to provide anti-oxidative benefits and boost your immunity. Examples berries, carrots, bell sweet peppers, tomatoes
- Most people are still insensitive to the mental health of the are sick, even loved ones. Health education programs must point out the challenges disease condition pose to the mental state of affected people. This will help people to be cautious of how they address the sick people around them. All they need is love. Do not stigmatize people be it TB or not
- Leave no one behind. Sharing is caring.I will See you soon ♥