A dance with Tuberculosis

A dance with Tuberculosis

CW: Medical stuff. Germs. Slightly strong language.

Let’s not beat around the bush. I had Tuberculosis (TB) in 2006.

People freak out when they hear about this. They firmly believe that TB is a disease that only affect poverty stricken communities. Its also considered as a “dirty affliction”… the stigma around this is so huge. And people don’t really talk about it openly. Its should be kept a secret and not even your relatives should be aware of your condition.

Oops! Guess I didn’t get that memo!

Here’s some Wiki facts

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria.
  • Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body.
  • Tuberculosis is spread through the air when people who have active TB in their lungs cough, spit, speak, or sneeze.
  • The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.
  • It was historically called “consumption” due to the weight loss
  • Treatment requires the use of multiple antibiotics over a long period of time.

Here’s the link if you want to read more about it

So what happened?

I was working in the hospital and one of the patients had TB. I took the regular precautions any student would. But of course, totally didn’t think I needed a mask. STUPID! especially since it is an airborne disease.

The first symptom that I noticed was the night sweats. I was drenched within a few hours to the point where I had to change my bedding. Miserable experience. Next came the incessant coughing. I couldn’t walk very far without starting a coughing fit. Coughing is exhausting! The muscles between my ribs started hurting.

Note, I was encouraged to hug a pillow while coughing to stabilise my 
rib-cage. This supposedly helps with the pain.

Next symptom, and this is when I knew I was in trouble, was difficulty breathing. Something was very wrong. So I headed to the emergency unit of a nearby hospital to get checked out. I got some chest x-rays and I remember the Dr actually brought the x-ray over to my bed and let me have a look at it. Being a medical student, he asked me for my professional opinion. I burst out laughing! Well, it was a shock but definitely had granulotamous lesions indicative of TB with a pleural effusion.

I was immediately admitted to hospital for treatment and surgery. Yea, I needed to get my chest drained. In other words they installed an underwater chest drainage system. From inside to outside, connected with pipes to a bottle.It drains the muck from your chest and helps your lung expand again. I wont detail how that got installed but I will say that being attached to an external appendage is disconcerting. Having to take your bottle with you to the bathroom is kinda ick! But you cannot leave it behind.

Image credit to www.derangedphysiology.com

Treatment

I was lucky that I had the standard variety of the disease. Minimum treatment of 6 months. After my first dose I was discharged from the hospital BUT I was allergic to the pills and I didn’t tell the doctor this. So 2 hours later I was back and connected to a drip because I was covered in hives. Needless to say my Mom was furious about all the drama caused by my silence. Love you Mom!

6 months is a long time to remember to take tablets morning and evening. Also a long time to sporadically break out in hives (No they did not change my treatment regimen, I just had to live with the reaction). But you have to complete the treatment unless you want to relapse and potentially develop a more resistant strain of TB. NO THANK YOU!

What did I learn?

  • Don’t be stupid! Take the necessary precautions as detailed by your lecturer, instructor, textbook… Those rules and regulations are there for a reason!
  • You can never wash your hands enough.
  • Be frank when having to deal with medical professionals. Hiding stuff is only going to make the process more difficult than it should be.
  • A mother’s love knows no bounds.

Obligatory GIF to close out this post:

medical mask GIF by Bounce
FFS, don’t take that off GIF by Bounce

4 Replies to “A dance with Tuberculosis”

  1. This is an awesome post, and a great effort from your part. It’s a reminder than medical professionals are human too and are in fact at a higher risk of contracting communicable diseases from their patients. It’s actually quite common. Like you said, it’s important that you take medications as advised and always tell the truth to your doctor. Even a small piece of information can be of great help to the doctor.

    I’m glad that you’re doing well now, and I appreciate that you decided to share your story.

    1. I know its years later but I keep reflecting on all the lessons learned. This incident changed the course of my life and the scars serve as a reminder!

    1. Yes, I had BCG as a kid but Tb is prevalent in my country. And health care workwers at a higher risk of exposure. Long term ~ well my one lung is smaller than the other. So at times I have breathing difficulties. But exercise, especially swimming, has helped a great deal with increasing capacity and efficiency.

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