Another breath of life

I  KNOW that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is handing over its activities to Zimbabwean authorities by the end of the year. That makes me a little bit worried.

I  KNOW that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is handing over its activities to Zimbabwean authorities by the end of the year. That makes me a little bit worried. I hope that the quality of care will stay the same and that the drugs will always be available for my drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) as I don’t want to relapse because I have come far with this painful medication.

Maybe it is just a coincidence. I used to get a nutritional supplement, plumpy nut, but now they told me at the clinic they ran out. I fervently hope this is not a sign of more drug shortages to come. This had never happened in the past and it has taken its toll on me. I have nothing to supplement my nutrition with and I find it difficult to take the drugs on an empty stomach. I am feeling weak but will never give up.

But in terms of drugs supply, nothing has changed so far. The drugs are available and I only pray that they be available till I complete my treatment in June 2015. I am really looking forward to the day I will be certified cured of DR-TB                                                          .

It’s not easy for a grown up man like me to rely on food handouts from well-wishers when I can fend for myself. The rains have finally come and every able bodied man is now busy in the fields. Unfortunately, for me, it’s a bit different. I am still weak and cannot do much besides morally supporting those doing the work.

This is my 18th month on DR-TB medication but I have been coughing of late. My body joints are weak and my right leg is nagging me with pain. I was at Chireya Mission Hospital a fortnight ago for my medication and I told the nurses of this pain.

I think the journey to Chireya made my condition worse. Though I am still not fit, I have to walk a journey of 30 km one way every fortnight to collect my medication. Even someone who is not sick cannot cope with this long journey. I usually start my journey to Chireya around 5 in the morning and only get there after mid-day. But, frail as I am, I have to soldier on.

Looking back, these drugs really transformed my life. I was bed ridden for a long time and the medication miraculously gave me another breath of life. And I will hold on it so dearly. That is the reason why I don’t give up even if it means walking 60 km to and back from Chireya every fortnight. That is my lifeline and I don’t have an option.

Me sitting with my brother's wife and er children. They have been taking care of me. Zimbabwe © Strambuli Kim/MSF

Me sitting with my brother's wife and her children. They have been taking care of me. © Strambuli Kim/MSF

Very soon I might be getting my DR-TB drugs from our nearest clinic which is 3 km away from my homestead. I heard that the nurses at the local clinic have been trained by MSF to administer this medication. This will be good for me as I will be spared the long journey. Maybe I will get time to recover.

The distance has been a major barrier for many in my community as they shudder walking to Chireya for medical services such as maternity and TB. There are no other means of transport besides walking or a ride in an ox drawn cart. But not many of us can afford the later as we don’t have any cattle.

My wife hasn’t come back yet. I am still hurt by the way she abandoned me. And she took with her our four children. I last saw them more than three months ago. This is very painful for me. I would like to visit them, but then, I cannot do that empty handed. Naturally as children, they will expect me to bring them some little goodies though I cannot afford that as I have no other means of income.

Once I complete this treatment, I have great plans. I want to start a market garden for my nutrition as well as a source of income. This will be complemented by a poultry project. Then I will take back my children, they really miss me as I also do. But for now, these are just my wishes, and thank God, they give me the strength to keep me going.