TB&Me: "I had to live for my son"

Tuberculosis patient Mairam* shares her story of determination in the face of a difficult treatment

Mairam* has been treated by for XDR-TB in Kyrgyzstan

In the beginning, when they told me I had tuberculosis (TB) I couldn’t believe it. How could I have TB?

I thought TB only happened to drunks and homeless people, but I’m not like that. I live in good conditions, I have my own house. I can't have tuberculosis.

I thought it was a mistake but it wasn’t. I was later diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Sometimes I could not even get up onto my feet. I wouldn't wish this on anyone...

After my diagnosis and almost a year of treatment, I decided to go back home to Kyrgyzstan. Here, I started treatment with MSF.

After a few months of treatment, an MSF doctor told me I have extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). At that time, there were no medicines for XDR-TB in Kyrgyzstan.

I started crying, I told myself: “you are going to die.” 

I didn’t want to contaminate my children

When times were especially hard, I moved in with my parents.

While I was sick in my room, my parents looked after my children in another room. The side effects of the drugs were severe for me, I was constantly sick.

Sometimes I could not even get up onto my feet. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

I knew that MDR-TB medications would not help me recover because I had XDR-TB, but I continued to take them. There was no other option: I did not want to contaminate my children.

My youngest son was about three-years-old at that time. I couldn’t let myself die. I had to live so that my youngest son would not be a burden on his stepmother if my husband were to remarry after my death.

I have a chance not only to survive but to recover

Six months later, I was informed that new drugs had arrived in Kyrgyzstan. I was supposed to be one of the first to receive them.

Doctors told me about the various side effects, including the loss of hearing or vision. I didn’t care. I wanted to take them.

I had thought I was going to die, but finally, I was given a chance not only to survive but to recover.

I was determined to get better. I didn’t have time to waste.

I know it may seem hard to believe but only one to two months later, I could feel myself getting better. I started gaining weight and I felt that that the healing process had started.

After almost four years of battling TB, doctors told me that I was cured.

I cried with happiness.

*Name has been changed at the patient’s request