My name is Tendai Mazhazhate and I am aged 38. I live in Nora area in Gokwe North District, Zimbabwe. I am a widowed mother of three and started multi drug resistant tuberculosis, MDR-TB, treatment on 15 July 2013.
I have been a volunteer community health worker in the past but I cannot continue now due to medication.
But getting me on treatment was not easy and I really want to thank the MSF team which was persistent. On four occasions, I ran away from them and stayed with my 11-year-old son in the bush for a week as I tried to evade the health care workers.
It sounds funny now as I explain but it was really tough for me. I was the first woman to be diagnosed with MDR-TB in Gokwe North District. And the medication made everyone around me scary. I was nervous.
Putting on a mask, getting injections every day for six months, taking too many tablets every day and staying isolated made it even worse. This was new in the community, it was unheard of.
So some of my friends told me that these NGO people wanted to experiment their drugs with me and I would not survive. Strangely, despite my little health background as community health worker, I believed them. I feared for my life. I just wanted to live for the sake of my orphaned children. I wanted to see them through their education and could not afford to risk my life these “experiments.” I had to run away with my precious life.
And whenever I heard that the MSF and Ministry of Health teams were coming to my house, I would run away. Even the sound of car near my homestead would send me dashing into the bush. Our area is very remote and cars are very few.
It took many counseling sessions for me to accept this treatment. And even though, the medication initially affected my mind. I would get cheeky and insult the health workers during the first two months of my medication. But, thank God, they did not give up on me and I really want to thank them for their big heart. Due to lack of information, I would have been dead by now.
But my woes did not end there. I became very sick during the initial phase of my medication and the prophets of doom capitalized on this as to them, this really confirmed that the drugs were experimental and I was going to die. But I didn’t die. I want to see my children growing up into adulthood and play with my grandchildren.
My husband passed away in 2005 after a long illness. He had TB in 1997 and never fully recovered after that. I also became sick after his death and was diagnosed with TB in 2009. I suspect that my late husband is the one who infected me with this stigmatized MDR-TB. The treatment for the TB didn’t really work as it recurred again in 2012. This was after I had been initiated on anti-retroviral therapy in 2010.
I was running my own community pre-school on the outskirts of Mangorohwe Primary School for a year but I had to stop due to my medical condition. I was admitted at Mtora District Hospital for six months and this was quite a horrible period in my life.
My productive life was temporarily halted. I could not attend to my fields. Actually I am in the process of engaging the local authorities as some community members grabbed my seven acres piece of land thinking that I was going to die at Mtora Hospital. I am food insecure now due to the hospitalization. Worse still, I am the sole bread winner for my family. So on the other note, this medication also took away my breadwinner status. I am sure I will regain it soon as I am already planning for the forthcoming farming season.
But for now I have to focus on my medication and I am sure I will be healed. Prophets of doom have already been doomed. These drugs, though painful, are really working for me.