Mumbai: Woman who overcame TB, lost two siblings, now counsels patients

After winning a 3-year battle against tuberculosis to which she had lost two siblings this 27-yr-old now counsels other patients to finish the treatment to prevent the disease from getting worse

Devastated as she was after losing two of her siblings to tuberculosis, 27-year-old Sampada Raje (name changed on request) sank into further despair when she contracted the deadly disease herself, about three years ago.

Sampada Raje (name changed) looks on as a TB awareness programme is conducted in Rose Mary school, where she used to work. Having defeated TB herself, Raje now cautions others to take the disease seriously and complete treatment. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Sampada Raje (name changed) looks on as a TB awareness programme is conducted in Rose Mary school, where she used to work. Having defeated TB herself, Raje now cautions others to take the disease seriously and complete treatment. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Despite the toll it had taken on her family, however, she underestimated TB and quit treatment twice, later developing multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB), which she finally defeated this week.

It was her family and friends who stepped up and provided the necessary support to the Malwani resident and finally helped her to overcome the disease. Raje’s family is now looking forward to making a fresh start and arranging her marriage. In 2012, four years after the demise of her siblings, Raje began to experience uncontrollable coughing fits.

Her family suspected that she too had contracted TB and once this was confirmed, Raje began treatment at a private medical centre. The treatment relieved her symptoms initially, but as she and her brother are the sole breadwinners of the family, the cost of the medicines was beginning to drain finances.

“The weekly cost used to come up to around Rs 800-900, which we couldn’t afford at all. Hence I stopped the treatment. I had to stop working as well, since I was vomiting continuously and couldn’t eat properly for over seven to eight months,” Raje recalls. However, her pulmonary TB turned into MDR TB, which is far harder to vanquish.

That’s when her boss, Anis Siddique principal of Rose Mary English School, where Raje was a clerk and her doctors persuaded her to resume treatment. “We immediately started treatment under RNTCP (Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme, under which the government provides free TB treatment),” said Dr Milind Rasal, assistant professor at Hathi Garden Urban Health Centre.

However, the second setback came when Raje was shifted to the Sewri TB hospital, and she ran away within a week. “I couldn’t bear the atmosphere the patients were in pain, they were reacting violently to the medication and were not able to sleep,” said Raje. By this time, the drugs had started to affect her as well.

Like other patients fighting MDR TB, Raje began to suffer from hallucinations and developed violent behaviour. Once again, her boss and doctor pushed her to restart treatment so she could beat TB once and for all.“We put her on anti-psychotic drugs so that we could control the momentary side effects of the TB drugs. Within two months, she was back to normal and started responding to the treatment,” said Rasal.

After undergoing treatment for two years, Raje was finally declared cured on March 22. Now she takes private tuition for students, and is also using her experience to counsel other TB patients and warn them against quitting treatment.

“It was a difficult period for me, but it was not right to discontinue the treatment,” she rued, adding, “The first time I stopped treatment because I wasn’t able to afford it and because I had started to feel better and thought I didn’t need medicines any more. Now I tell others how much I regret it and warn them to complete their treatment.”

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