Handful of Pills
Cristina R., a 24-year old student at Balti Medical College, had multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), but was misdiagnosed with drug-susceptible tuberculosis. She was diagnosed with a form of extra-pulmonary TB called tuberculous pleurisy in September 2011 and started treatment for drug-susceptible TB in October 2011. After 3 months of treatment, her symptoms did not improve.
Because the tuberculosis was in the pleura, there were few bacilli visible in sputum microscopy and culture and repeated test results were negative. It was her astute TB doctor, Dr. Vera Dubceac, and the diagnostic prowess of the new machine Gene XPert which revealed the correct diagnosis of MDR-TB. The Gene XPert test was conducted at the Balti TB Reference Laboratory in January 2012 and detected active pulmonary TB with a strain of MDR-TB. Although Cristina was terribly frightened to know she had MDR-TB, she could finally begin the correct drug regimen in February 2012. Speranta Terrei’s last Global Giving report featured the Gene XPert and Cristina’s story underlines its importance in Moldova, where MDR-TB strains are being transmitted from person to person.
Along came another Vera to aid Cristina in the battle with TB, this time Vera Rusnac, a moderator with Speranta Terrei since 2009. Vera Rusnac is a medical assistant and Cristina is studying to become a medical assistant and the two felt an immediate kinship. Vera takes a handful of anti-TB drugs (in the attached photo) to Cristina five times per week. Cristina is one of 17 TB patients, 5 with MDR-TB, to whom Vera has given treatment support. Vera’s and Cristina’s classmates’ comforting presence are helping Cristina to withstand the adverse effects of the arduous 24-month treatment for MDR-TB.
TB sapped Cristina’s strength and slowed down her studies, but it taught her to be patient. She says, “In the nature of humans, there are golden qualities, one of them is patience. Tuberculosis has taught me patience and hope of a new life, a life without drugs, and where there will always be sunshine.” For a young woman who was first diagnosed with TB 18 months ago, Cristina has, indeed, had to learn patience!
World Tuberculosis Day is March 24. It marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery that tuberculosis was caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Speranta Terrei’s volunteers will conduct a public awareness campaign in the center of Balti during March 22-24; distribute TB information on the Chisinau-Moscow train on March 22; and distribute food and clothes to children in families with TB on March 25. Our own Dr. Feodora Rodiucova will give a presentation on TB at a canteen for indigent TB patients in Balti on March 26. We thank our donors for remembering TB patients on World TB Day and on every day of their long treatment.