‘TB’ a word which when heard everyone imagine about a weak person constantly coughing and waiting for his demise. Two decades ago, there was no treatment for it which obviously meant that a person infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis would definitely have a very painful end. Moreover it is a communicable disease, so was and even is a taboo in itself. But thanks to the efforts put by World Health Organisation, a cure was invented because of which millions of people, including me, recovered back to their normal lives. Here I’m sharing my experience through this dis-ease.
I joined my college in 2009 and the first semester went very well. I was very enthusiastic that time, participated in almost every extracurricular activities, had a very happy and a positive surroundings and moreover was showered with love from everywhere. Even I participated in the Art of Living’s YES+ course and felt more positively spirited. I was literally in love with my life. But I don’t understand where laid the lacuna, from where I let loose the thread and from where that monster entered my life.
During the Diwali festival I went to my home in October 2009. After coming back to the hostel I caught up cold and cough due to climatic variations. I didn’t care about it and readily the cold vanished away. But cough retained its field. Even then I didn’t care. I took is casually as every now and then I used to catch up cough due to allergies.
After the semester exams in December, I went back to my home. There too I kept coughing and ignoring. A week later, my father noticed my persistent coughing. He bought few medicines and cough syrups for me, but still I didn’t recover. After a week I went back to the hostel. The day when I was returning, my father strictly instructed me to get checked up by a doctor in our campus Health Centre. Even then for few days I didn’t care to move my feet to the health centre.
My coughing started becoming severe and with that my father too started exerting more pressure on me to get checked up. Finally one day I went to our campus Health Centre. The female doctor there checked and asked me to get a full check up and few tests from a bigger hospital. The next day I went to a private hospital in the city. They took X-Ray of my chest and blood samples for testing. The doctor then suggested me to get further checked up and medicated by the government hospital. I was confused as I had no idea why he asked me to get medicated by the Govt. one, as according to the reputation of the hospital, they too must have the medicines. Then the doctor explained that I might be having TB and there existed a medication DOTS for it which had to be provided by the Govt hospitals.
I was totally illiterate about this disease and the DOTS. Until then I was totally lenient about everything and took it as granted because of my limited knowledge. And then I told everything to my father, who was literally stressed out after hearing all. He then said that he would be coming the next day to take me to our family doctor in Chandigarh to confirm about and get further suggestions.
That day I researched about everything related to Tuberculosis, its causes, effects and medication. After learning about it I was in severe disbelief that how could only I was infected and not others who share the same crowd and surroundings with me. I started listing up all those lacunae which might have made me susceptible to the bacteria, and the foremost of them all was our hostel surroundings. Every morning our surroundings would smell like an open gutter and gradually upto the evening the odour would merge into the air. Moreover there were no precautions laid to keep the wild and infested monkeys away from our drinking waters. I was disgusted by the college authorities who never cared to invest the funds in making our surroundings healthy. But simultaneously I knew that it was our fault too that we never forced them to do so.
For the next 2-3 days I was examined with every possible test from blood test, X-rays, Mantoux test, sputum test to CT-Scans. Every report tested me positive for TB. Our family doctor then suggested my father to link up with the nearest Govt. Hospital to my hostel. He too repeated the same things about DOTS.
The next day we came back to Solan and went to the Govt. hospital. They once again took my sputum to confirm about the disease. After the confirmation a nurse took us to the DOTS centre within the hospital campus. A male head nurse then gave me five big tablets and a glass of water; he then said to eat them all infront of him. I was surprised to know that I had to eat them all at the same time but gulping another glass of water I did it. The nurse then instructed me to eat healthy food rich in calcium and iron especially cheese, milk and sprouted pulses. Also he asked me to come there after every second day for taking the medicines. The hospital was about 14 kms from my college so my father asked him to shift the medicines to the campus Health Centre. He agreed and I started my medication journey with DOTS.
I had to go to the health centre every second day for few months to consume those five big tablets in front of the head nurse. Also I started consuming raw paneer 100 gms each day! I enriched my diet with everything that the doctor had suggested. I felt very bad for the people around me, so I always covered my mouth with a handkerchief, so that they didn’t get my bacteria. I was captured in self guilt and never felt comfortable in telling anybody that I was in dis-ease. Only my roommates knew about it and in my room too I always covered my mouth, kept my things away from them and talked very less. But somewhere my roommates knew that I was not getting positive about it. So, they started comforting me in every possible way. Divya, even drank water from my bottle to comfort me that I was not tabooed (I know that’s seriously the stupidest thing ever practically, but I appreciate her love and courage that let her do so only to comfort me). They laughed, played and enjoyed their time with me.
I used to carry a card, issued by the DOTS centre to track my medicines, with me to the college every time when I had to visit the Health Centre for medication. Once while sitting in the class that card fell on the ground near my seat and I didn’t notice it. Nitika picked it up and while reading he passed it to me. In shock and guilt, I literally snatched it from her as I didn’t want anybody to know about it. She noticed the stress in my expressions and started comforting me by saying that she was ok with it and her friendship didn’t care about any disease. I felt supportive and positive after her response. Most of the times I used to cough severely during the nights and many times it literally felt as if my lungs would come out; at those moments Komal would always come for my comfort. I am very thankful to all those people who stayed with me at the worst time of my life.
The medicines that I was having were very strong. The whole day, on which I used to have those 5 tablets, had definitely gone in peril. My abdomen used to burn like a furnance and the heat emitted from there used to consume whole of my body. Within 2-3 hours of consuming the medicines I used to feel drowsy after which I slept like a narcoleptic. Even during lectures I slept in front of the professors (I don’t know whether they were aware of my medication or not, but they always ignored me sleeping in their classes). I was fed of my drowsiness; moreover sleeping infront of a teacher was really disrespectful. I didn’t want to do that all. So, I started diverting my mind to some other tasks in between like sketching the professors’ faces! This helped me a lot. But still I used to sleep even in the 5 min break that we got when we switched to the next lecture.
After two months my medicines were reduced. Now I had to take three of them after every fourth day. I was happy that the load of those medicines had reduced but the drowsiness still entrapped me.
But inspite of having a regular medication, I went to a trip to Nainital-Mussorie, participated in three dance items in the college night and did all that challenged me. I was literally fighting with that dis-ease that entered my life unbeknownst.
Slowly my life came back on track. After the six months of medication completed, the health centre nurse tested my sputum once again to confirm that I was totally infection free and completely immune to the TB bacteria. I was completely fine so, they ceased the medication. Really I felt freedom like never before.
I was and am thankful to the scientists who discovered the antidote and invented a medication for that life threatening disease. Because of their and WHO’s efforts millions of people including me, are alive. Still there are millions more who are not that lucky and because of the lack of awareness they perish in agony. Moreover there are few others who lose the battle just because of the lack of moral support from the society especially from their loved ones.
My life after the disease and the medication went well for many months. But unfortunately after the medication some uninvited problems entered in my life. Although the medicines saved my life but it gradually weakened my immune system. I went through a paradox; I was now more susceptible to cold, fever, cough and weakness. I’m not saying it from my side only, but few other TB survivors too told me about the same after effects. One more consequence that I had to pertain for whole of my life was the scrambling joints. I was suffering from aching knees ever since I started the medicines. I had never linked it with the disease until I was enlightened about the same from other TB patients. Many a-times I went to see a doctor for getting the aching knees checked up. But they never took it seriously and instead shooed me off as if I was just wasting their time. I know this is a problem associated with the disease and definitely it is going to trouble me lifelong. But I will fight with this too. Life is short, it teaches lesson every now and then. We should enjoy it and feel the happiness within but most importantly we have to spread it to our surroundings, only then will it come back to us.