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TB&Me: "I met my boyfriend in the TB hospital"

What's it like to be living in a pandemic, when you already have a serious lung disease? Svetlana shares her experience

TB patient Svetlana is treated by MSF in Ukraine

I was on treatment in the TB hospital in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, when I first heard about the new coronavirus. Medical staff told me about the COVID-19 pandemic and that a lot of people were dying.

I was in shock. I felt panicked.

I was able to cope with this information thanks to the psychologist who supported me.

A couple of weeks after the lockdown started in Ukraine, a test confirmed I couldn’t spread tuberculosis anymore, so I was discharged from hospital to receive outpatient care. I felt so relieved.

My husband and I divorced while I was in the TB hospital, but I first met my boyfriend there as well. He was discharged one week after me and now we live together in my cottage in Chernyahiv city with three dogs and a cat.

Due to quarantine measures, we try to stay at home as much as possible. I spend a lot of time working in my garden. When my doctor calls me, I go to the health facility close to my house to pick up my medicines.

It’s a short walk.

I don’t have any support from my relatives, but my boyfriend and I support each other. We also keep the community spirit developed in the hospital and I stand with people who need my support.

The psychologist and social workers regularly call me. They always want to know how I feel and give me some instructions. Medical staff here in Chernyahiv are also always in contact.

I have no problem with my drugs. As I feel good, I try to do morning exercises to stay fit. Sometimes I even jog.

My boyfriend and I usually prepare porridge or cereal for breakfast and we try to eat only healthy food. We also pay attention to all the coronavirus prevention measures, including hand washing, to avoid contamination.

We want to finish our treatment and be healthy. After that, we want to have a place to raise a lot of chickens, become kind of poultry farmers. And our main plan is to get married and have kids.

My personal approach is to never give up.

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Médecins Sans Frontières works in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and Zhytomyr Regional TB Dispensary to provide effective treatment for people suffering from drug-resistant TB. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to adapt our approach. Instead of having all the medication at the dispensary, drugs are now delivered to local facilities, and mental health support has been provided mainly via phone. We have expanded awareness-raising activities for all our patients and staff, providing them with information on how to prevent the virus, and we increased infection control measures for our teams and in the TB hospital. The TB programme has kept on enrolling on average four patients per week, exactly as before the pandemic.

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Read more: Posts from TB patients

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