Vitalie and Ecaterina
Music strengthened Vitalie’s resolve to overcome tuberculosis, music’s healing power saw him through to the end of two years of treatment for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). He recounts how much music helped him, “Playing calmed me, the rhythm settled my anxiety and my doubts about fighting off this disease.” Vitalie is a master of the hammered dulcimer, an instrument very much a part of folk music in Central and Eastern Europe. In Moldova, the hammered dulcimer is called tambal and Vitalie has been playing it for 14 years. Its sound has mesmerized him ever since he first heard it as a child.
Vitalie’s story is symbolic of Moldova’s TB epidemic, a mix of prime working age adults leaving the country to find jobs, of alcohol’s stranglehold during socioeconomic decline, and of the effects of stigma against TB patients. When jobs for musicians became scarce, Vitalie went to Russia as a construction laborer and may have contracted TB while he was a migrant worker. Upon returning, he started TB treatment in Moldova in September 2013, when he was 28 years old. He could not find a steady job and played the tambal at weddings and in cafes to earn money. Alcohol was plentiful and within easy reach while he played late into the night.
Back at Balti’s Music School “Gheorge Enescu” a decade ago, Speranta Terrei’s patient coordinator, Galina, taught Vitalie music history and theory. Galina still teaches at the music school and she remembers Vitalie as a good student! As a TB patient, he was referred to Speranta Terrei because alcohol addiction put him in a risk group for abandoning treatment. Ecaterina was his moderator and she gave him Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) daily. She has given treatment support to 8 TB patients and is herself an unemployed graduate of laboratory medicine from Balti Medical College. Vitalie and his wife, Mariana, say Ecaterina guided them during the long treatment, answering their questions on preventing transmission, especially to Mariana and a baby to come (see photos taken at Balti TB dispensary of Ecaterina and Vitalie speaking and Vitalie placing a sputum sample). Last November, Vitalie finished TB treatment and his family, including one-year old Sorina, is healthy. He has a job playing the tambal in an orchestra and he avoids alcohol.
Vitalie attends TB Club at Speranta Terrei’s Centre for Tuberculosis Patients and talks openly of his struggles, encouraging other patients and praising his moderator, Ecaterina. Stigma against TB patients is so strong that Vitalie does not want us to show photos of his face or his prized tambal. Speranta Terrei’s staff and patients thank our many donors, who have been supporting us to control TB behind the scenes. Vitalie is a symbol of how much community treatment support matters to vulnerable patients.
Vitalie Placing Sputum Sample