This year’s World Tuberculosis Day was momentous for Speranta Terrei as we opened the renovated Centre for Tuberculosis Patients in Balti. Every year on March 24, we commemorate World Tuberculosis Day by distributing information about TB symptoms and transmission in Balti and in villages in northern Moldova. This year, we commemorated it by welcoming 70 guests to our newly renovated Centre!
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony (photo attached), Dr. Elena Boleac of the Ministry of Health spoke of the importance of addressing social as well as medical dimensions of tuberculosis disease. The Centre has rooms where patients are given counseling, treatment adherence support, and assistance with documents and where homeless patients can bathe and wash clothes. For Speranta Terrei’s staff, the Centre is a comfortable place to work, conduct meetings, train moderators, and expand services to TB patients. Since the opening in March, 27 TB patients and family members have come to the Centre to participate in group discussions on TB stigma, complications of treatment, and social services available from local government.
The renovation of the Centre lasted a year and involved extensive repairs, such as replacement of decayed pipes, raising of the ceiling, and completely new heating and ventilation systems. The constructors and Speranta Terrei’s staff went beyond the call of duty to ready the Centre for the opening celebration on World Tuberculosis Day. The attached photos show the guest table laden with traditional Moldovan bread and salt and our special young greeters with bags they presented to guests. TB doctors and public health and city officials at the ceremony agreed with the words printed on the bags, “Împreuna luptam împotriva tuberculozei!”, “Together we fight against tuberculosis!”
The Centre’s renovation was made possible through a project funded by the German government’s agency GIZ and through donations sent via Global Giving. City Hall Balti allowed Speranta Terrei to establish the Centre in a municipal building adjacent to Family Physicians’ Centre Nr. 1. We are grateful to them and to you for helping us to realize our longstanding goal of a convenient and welcoming place for TB patients and families.
Speranta Terrei is seeking funds to cover operations and maintenance costs of the Centre. New donations through GlobalGiving will be used for this purpose. From our busy Centre, we send thanks in advance for your continuing generosity towards TB patients.
Petru is far from Dancu village, but he is not far from the thoughts of his moderator (treatment supporter), Iulia. In an earlier Global Giving report, Speranta Terrei featured Petru and Iulia from Dancu, on the edge of Moldova’s western border with Romania. At the time, Iulia was taking anti-TB drugs to Petru so that he could complete treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Despite her vigilance, Petru interrupted the ambulatory treatment and is back in hospital. On a recent cold February day, Iulia along with Speranta Terrei’s psychologist, Valeri, made the long trek to Vorniceni MDR-TB Hospital to visit Petru. Vorniceni specializes in treatment of MDR-TB, which requires a longer and more toxic drug regimen than drug-susceptible TB.
When Petru realized Iulia was in the visitors area of Vorniceni hospital, he said “Oh, my fairy Godmother is here, the one who tried to save me from this terrible disease.” Iulia visits only infrequently because of the expense and time to ride two buses to travel the 80 kilometers between Dancu and Vorniceni. Her concern for Petru is apparent. She had TB as a child and she continues to counsel him to complete his treatment regimen.
As with many of Speranta Terrei’s TB patients, alcohol and tobacco are large obstacles between Petru’s illness and recovery. He says he has tried to stop, but slips back into old habits when he is with friends. On the day of the hospital visit, Petru told Iulia he wants to be cured and he has gained weight since returning to hospital in November. His hearing and sight are still weak and he needs help walking down steps. The attached photos show Iulia and Valeri helping Petru down the stairs at Vorniceni hospital and Iulia dispensing her reassuring words.
Iulia has not given up on Petru. She asks rhetorically, “If I do not help him, who will?” She explained again to Petru how important it was for him to be cured and return to Dancu. In the attached photo, while bidding farewell and shaking hands, Iulia told Petru she will be looking for him soon in Dancu!
Thanks to our donors, Speranta Terrei and our moderators can look for our TB patients to come home cured.
When you meet Galina in person, her spirit and confidence is more apparent than her hardscrabble background. In a Global Giving report two years ago, Speranta Terrei introduced Galina and her children when they were being treated for tuberculosis. Thanks to your donations, they have finished treatment and are rebuilding themselves. In the attached photos, Galina sends off her children to school on a recent rainy day.
Galina grew up on the streets of Balti, without a place to call home since she was 4 years old. Larger, older family members pushed her to panhandle and then collected her takings and doled out bits of food in the evening. From the age of 10, she was making small boxes from discarded banana cartons to sell for a few bani. Except for brief periods when her children were born, she was homeless for most of her life.
Speranta Terrei’s moderator, Olga, was moved to act when she saw how Galina, her son, Cristi, and her daughter, Angelina, fared on the streets. Olga realized that TB treatment would not be effective if they remained hungry and cold and exposed to reinfection. Galina recalls Olga’s daily visits for Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) and her kindness in sharing food and toys. She remembers the painful separation from her precious children during inpatient treatment at Balti TB Hospital, where she stayed in a room with 3 other patients for 2 months. Cristi and Angelina had to live at a children’s home 7 kilometers from Balti and they cried with joy when they were reunited with their mother. Speranta Terrei guided Galina through applications for such social services as short-term housing and job training for tailoring.
Galina mends clothes to earn money and has become a moderator for 8 TB patients, 5 men and 3 women. Her own bout with TB makes it easy to persuade patients to adhere to treatment. She tells them “your life is in your own hands and you will be healthy if you respect this regimen.” Speranta Terrei’s patient coordinator, the older Galina, trained the younger Galina on community DOT and they visit each other’s patients when illness or family duties interfere with their moderator’s duties. The younger Galina still faces eviction from her rented apartment, but she is grateful for how far she has come and smiles and says, “I gained 2 kilos and my children are in school!”
In late October, many vivacious and talented singers and dancers joined Speranta Terrei to put on a charity concert at the Cultural Center of Balti. We express our gratitude to them and to the residents of Balti for raising their voices so that we could raise funds for the renovation of our Centre for Tuberculosis Patients. Galina, Cristi, and Angelina were in the front row in the concert hall and clapped along with us. They and we send you our bravos and wishes for good health in the new year. Un An Nou Fericit! La Multi Ani!
A year ago, we featured one of our young patients, Gabriela, as she swallowed pills to treat multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Gabriela is now 5 years old and has completed two years of grueling treatment. She is cured!
MDR-TB is widespread in Moldova, accounting for about one-quarter of new, and two-thirds of previously treated, TB cases diagnosed every year in Moldova. MDR-TB is not only harder to treat, it is deadlier than drug-susceptible tuberculosis. Gabriela’s parents are relieved and overjoyed to see their oldest child healthy and vibrant. Every occasion is noteworthy for them, even Gabriela losing her baby teeth, as you see in the attached photo.
Gabriela’s father has finished TB treatment and has found construction work in their village, Chipriceni. He was a migrant worker and had interrupted treatment more than once. This is a common occurrence in Orhey district in central Moldova, where Chipriceni is located. The director of the Orhey TB Community Center, Natalia, says, “Speranta Terrei is a valued partner for us. Moderators are from our community and we can select the neediest patients: the isolated, the poor, and migrant workers.” For Speranta Terrei and TB Community Centers, the relationship is mutually beneficial in our common cause to reduce treatment default. Staff at these centers know which patients need home-based treatment support and which moderators are suitable for a patient. They are close enough to monitor a patient’s adherence to treatment and adverse effects of drugs. Speranta Terrei trains moderators and pays them an allowance for home visits and thus stretches the reach to vulnerable patients.
In the case of little Gabriela, her mother, Cristina, was her moderator. Cristina brought home TB drugs from the dispensary and provided Directly Observed Therapy to Gabriela while caring for Gabriela’s baby sister. Gabriela shows her appreciation of her moderator in the attached photo. Thankfully, her baby sister was not infected with TB. Cristina is ready to use her experience with Gabriela to give treatment support to an older woman who lives in Chipriceni.
Gabriela and Speranta Terrei send our thanks for your donations. Gabriela says, “I don’t have to take pills anymore. I can play again with my friends.”
In 2012, we reported on Alexandr, who was undergoing treatment for drug-susceptible tuberculosis under the gaze of our intrepid moderator, Galina. Since then, Alexandr has finished treatment and is now cured of tuberculosis. He is relieved to have overcome TB, but he wishes he could overcome the weakness in his legs. During a period of excessive drinking of alcohol a few years ago, Alexandr experienced tremors and lost the use of his legs. His legs remain weak and he cannot walk unaided.
At the age of 27, Alexandr is homebound. His favorite spot at his parents’ apartment is by the window, where he sits for hours at a time, watching people go to and fro and listening to children jumping noisily in the playground. He spots young mothers strolling with their children. He would like to join the hubbub instead of languishing in a chair. Before alcohol claimed his legs, he had attended technical college and had a circle of friends. He tells Galina, “I long to walk again and to have a family with many children.”
Alexandr reads books, especially books on Moldovan history. He misses Galina’s visits and her stern talks, which saw him through TB treatment. When she came by to say hello recently, his joy was apparent, as shown in the attached photo. He says about Galina and Speranta Terrei, “I know they will not abandon me, they gave me hope to believe that I would be well again.”
Thanks to your generosity, Speranta Terrei has the means to offer personal support to patients such as Alexandr. They need not only anti-TB drugs, but the deft touch of caring persons in our community who are willing to visit them at home. We cannot solve all of Alexandr’s problems, but we could assist him to complete TB treatment at home. Alexandr is not alone among TB patients who abused alcohol and he wants to share his story so that others are deterred. Speranta Terrei would like to reduce the heavy toll of alcohol addiction among our TB patients and start addiction counseling for them.
As always, we thank you for your donations, which currently go towards the establishment of a center for tuberculosis patients. The center will allow us to expand our services to patients. On the last Global Giving Bonus Day, Speranta Terrei was delighted that many more of you joined our cause!
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Moldova, Republic of
Moldova, Republic of