Yes, after I was switched to foreign-made medications it turned out that the medicines provided by the Global Fund were much easier to tolerate than the medicines normally provided by the Belarussian healthcare system. But still it’s different in each case. For example, I tolerated Indian-made Pyrazinamide from the Belorussian medications range better.
Koch's TB Bacillus, just like the flu virus, mutates very quickly but the treatment remains the same! The medicines I was receiving were invented about half a century ago. There are already some talks about new medicines, they are being introduced gradually, very carefully, prescribed to critically ill patients, there is no data on the outcomes yet. However, there is some positive feedback from the patients: for example, a young man who could not start his treatment for 10 years, as it made no sense because he had been infected with a highly mutated tubercle bacillus, resistant to almost all anti-TB antibiotics. Seven months after he started the new treatment, he reported happily that the holes in the lungs were getting healed and, a quote: "…so, I'm going to live... go to work... will be able to start a family...".
The hospital was breaking at its seams due to the number of patients. I was discharged to a day hospital. The medications should be taken every day under a doctor’s control, because it’s not likely that any sane person would shove this disgusting stuff with severe side-effects down their throat.
The song goes: If you walk along the road for a long time, it's possible to get to Africa.
Feels like torture, like some experiments to test human endurance. The road is blurry. Joints feel so swelled as if they are about to burst. My heart seems to beat in my ears and I am short of breath. It’s impossible to tolerate the painful injection against the background of this permanent pain. The staff next door wondered what was happening, until it occurred to them that everything was ok, it was just me in the treatment room.
I remember facing a choice: to kill my lungs refusing the TB treatment, or to destroy my stomach totally because of permanent vomiting trying to live through the fixed treatment time. I thought maybe I would be fed by a drip from now on.
Thanks Heaven for sending me an angel disguised as a day hospital doctor. She attended to me during the most difficult period of treatment, and then she was taken away from me... to another place of work. If it was not for her I would no longer be among the living, and the blog you are reading now would not be here either.
I was not vomiting for the first day during the last 3.5 months. The reason why? In the 3rd month of treatment one medication was removed from the scheme of torment – protionamide, which people call ‘flashlight’ because of the special effect it has on one’s eyes. I had not experienced the visual side-effects, but when somebody offered me a flashlight, just hearing the word I went to hug the toilet.
Do you know how to find out what you’ve been poisoned by? Try to recall the food you have eaten while you still feel nauseated, or even imagine that you are eating each of those products one by one again. The answer won’t keep you waiting.
My journey took an hour in each direction. Bearing a backpack with 1001 jars of different types of food in it... The nurses were perplexed: “Half of a fridge again”. To preserve the stomach and reduce pain it's necessary to eat before taking medicines. I couldn’t make myself eat at all. I was just hoping to keep something down. I was told later that the medicines are easier to tolerate if you take them an hour after breakfast, preferably a substantial one if possible. An hour was enough for me to get to the hospital. Step by step, trying to avoid the stairs, I was crawling to the day hospital (it’s in the same building as the inpatient clinic). They gave me two sheets in the day hospital - one to lie on, the other as a cover. Blankets were forbidden by regulations. When you’re drowning in the vomit, it would be such a relief to lie a little higher on the pillow. I felt as if I was lying in the fridge. “It’s like this in a sobering-up centre I guess. But I'm not a drunk, I'm sick. Why is this happening to me?!” I had no choice: I couldn't walk, so I had to stay and lie down. But I was glad that in the evening I would return to a warm place, where I would not be left alone with the disease. I'll tell you more about this in the 5th month’s post.