I am 30 years of age, I live in Epworth, a settlement which is 12 kilometers outside Harare, Zimbabwe. I am a single mother and I have two children, a 15 year old boy and an eighteen month old girl.
I have multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) and I am taking my medication with the assistance of Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
So far, I have completed the MDR TB injections which I took for eight months from March 2 2015 to the end of October 2015. To complete my MDR TB course, I am now taking tablets, which I am supposed to swallow for 18 months. I take these tablets every day from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is my day of rest, as I do not take the tablets then.
My MDR TB journey started when my son took me to the hospital after suffering from severe pain in one of my legs. The doctors examined every part of my body and conducted several tests after which they told me that I had MDR TB. They told me that the disease that I had, could spread to other people so I was referred to Nazareth hospital in Harare, where I was admitted for two weeks. After that, I came back to Epworth where I started receiving my injections from the Epworth polyclinic where MSF is supporting the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to treat TB patients.
At that time, I could not walk on my own. My son would borrow a wheelbarrow from neighbours and take me to the hospital. This only happened for two days. After that, MSF requested to know where I was staying so that they could come and treat me from my home.
MSF used its vehicle to bring medication to my door step. The nurses would come home and give me an injection from my home for the eight months I was taking the injections. I am now taking 14 tablets a day and MSF has continued to bring the tablets home.
I am really grateful to MSF because I now feel much better than I was before. I could not walk on my own but MSF bought a walking frame for me so that I could learn how to walk again.
Virginia holding her walking frame.
They hired a physiotherapist who taught me to walk and assist me to do some exercises that would make me fit. The exercises were done at least three times a week. At first, even with the aid of a walking stick, I could not walk for more than two metres as I would feel very tired. I always had a chair close-by so that I would sit when I am tired.
Now I can walk on my own. I can now carry my daughter on my back like other mothers do.
There was a time when I could not even sit down on my own because I was very weak and powerless. Every time I tried, I would fall. My son used to carry me from inside the house to outside the house to allow me to get fresh air, but I would fall the moment he would leave me on my own.
I could not go to the toilet on my own. I could not cook or even wash on my own but now I can go to the toilet on my own, I can wash and cook and perform a few of other household chores.
There was a time when my relatives had begun to make preparations for my funeral because, in their eyes, I was not going to survive. They thought I was going to die because of the condition that I was in. They also didn’t think I was going to survive the medication. They wondered if I was going to take the injections for eight months. At first, I also thought it was not going to be possible but I did it with the support and help from MSF.
What gave me the strength was the desire to survive and look after my children. I realised my life depended on taking medication so I took the medication consistently despite the pain and side effects I experienced. For example, I vomit everyday and feel nauseous after taking the tablets but I have to continue taking the tablets because my life depends on taking them. The nurses and counsellors have told me to soldier on and hopefully the vomiting will stop one day. When I look back, I realise that I have come a long way and I have to continue to be brave.
I want to encourage everyone not to give up taking their prescribed medications. If you have MDR TB or any other type of TB, you have to accept your condition and take your medication consistently.
* - name has been changed.