Fighting TB: Timely Treatment, Nutrition and Support is Important
TB is not very scary, but the treatment is quite difficult to follow, writes a MDR TB survivor.
It was in April 2016 that I fell sick. I was coughing for three weeks.
Fever would come and go and I had lost upto 4 kgs. During these three weeks, I visited the doctor twice. The doctors suspected it was just a viral infection. So I was given some pills but they didn't work. I was eventually referred to a chest specialist.
The doctor told me that it was mostly TB but he said he would require my sputum sample to confirm the diagnosis.
I thought to myself: “TB? How could I have TB. I have never smoked a cigarette or consumed alcohol.”
The doctors explained to me that TB could happen to anyone. They also explained how a person gets TB and how it would spread to others if I didn’t cover my mouth for a temporary period of time.
Further, when my sputum test came positive, he sent the sample for drug sensitivity test (DST). It was found to be resistant to both the first line drugs.
This meant that I had to take medicines for 2 years - around 20-25 tablets everyday and a injection.
Side Effects of the Treatment
TB is not very scary, but the treatment is quite difficult to follow. There are side effects which might scare you.
You might even think about not taking the medicines.
Side effects include deafness, blindness, kidney and liver damage, depression and anxiety. In very rare cases, it might make the patient psychotic, suicidal and cause paralysis.
These were the kind of thoughts running through my mind:
What will happen if I go mad and start harming others around? What would my parents do if I committed suicide? I am the only child and we don't even have our own house. How would they take care of themselves? If I am paralyzed, I would become a burden on my parents and end up making them suffer.
All these negative thoughts seemed like an inescapable trap for me.
Luckily, I neither become blind nor deaf.
Support is Important to Fight TB
But let me tell you the other side of the story.
My work performance was affected. I couldn't remember things. One day my manager had a one-on-one discussion with me. He was aware of my illness as I didn't hide it from anyone. My manager said: “Come to office, just sit, roam around and do not worry about the work.”
My work was distributed among my team members. I worked very less and did simple tasks so as not to stress myself. During lunch, my colleagues would sit with me, exchange food and always ensured that they were there for any help that I required.
My best friend’s entire family made me a part of their family which was one of the biggest factors in my survival. My mom would feed me every 2-3 hours. My relatives, best friend, his family and even my office colleagues assured us that we would have enough funds for treatment and food.
Speaking to Other TB Survivors Helped Me
Despite all this support, it was difficult.
Then one day, I spoke to two XDR TB survivors - Saurabh Rane and Debashree Lokhande. Trust me, when the people who have gone through the same illness speak, every word is like medicine.
I am grateful I got to meet two new beautiful people. Yes, it was a very threatening experience but these people made my struggle with MDR TB easier.
Remember that right nutrition, drug sensitivity test, complete treatment, mental strength and light exercises are the key factors to fight TB.
Now, I have once again started working on my career goals. I believe together we can put an end to TB.
(Himanshu Patel is a MDR TB survivor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author's own. FIT neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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