Rima's TB story

A student of Journalism and Mass Communication, 19-year-old Rima was diagnosed with extra-pulmonary tuberculosis (EPTB) in April 2019. Early symptoms included constant fever, nausea, uneasiness, severe throat infection and swollen tonsils. After a week, her parents took her to a local ear nose throat (ENT) specialist who prescribed medication for her symptoms. Within a span of two to three weeks, Rima’s symptoms worsened.

The family decided to seek a second opinion and visited another ENT specialist. This physician diagnosed Rima to have a throat infection. She was again prescribed symptomatic medicines and was advised to take steam inhalations. The intake of steam, however, gave Rima unbearable chest pain. She continued the treatment, despite the discomfort, because she trusted the doctor.

Two weeks later and with no respite in sight, Rima’s father decided to visit their family doctor at Peerless Hospital. Dr Chandramouli Bhattacharya conducted multiple tests, including a fine needle aspiration procedure. Finally, after a three and a half month-long struggle, Rima was diagnosed with EPTB.

The news of the diagnosis was disturbing for both for Rima and her family. “I wondered why TB happened to me? I wondered about my friends and what their reaction to my diagnosis would be. I thought they would all abandon me now and that I will never be ‘normal’ again.” Rima spiraled into depression. It was at this time that the treatment coordinator (TC) from JEET (Joint Effort for Elimination of Tuberculosis), on Dr Chandramouli’s behest, reached out to Rima’s family. The TC counseled and encouraged Rima to share the news of her diagnosis with her friends and extended family. When she reluctantly shared the news, Rima was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone accepted her and her diagnosis with open arms. She heaved a sigh of relief.

However, Rima’s TB treatment was fraught with side effects, including red-coloured urine, prolonged and intense cough, vomiting, vertigo, drowsiness, weakness, severe abdominal pain, and numbness in her limbs. She lost her appetite, which made her weak and feeble. She cried for prolonged periods of time. The side effects exhausted Rima. Thankfully, both her family and the JEET TC helped her to cope. The TC got Rima back on her feet by encouraging her to take small steps every day. And slowly Rima advanced on her journey to recovery. With the help of the TC, Rima was also enrolled in Nikshay Poshan Yojana − a Government of India initiative to provide INR 500 to every TB patient in the public sector to support their nutritional needs.

Today, Rima is completely recovered. She has finished her six-month treatment and tested negative in her last sputum examination. Now, she wants to spread awareness about TB and encourage families to support not shun TB patients. “People with TB should take the treatment so they can get cured. But it is the care and love from families and friends which is critical for recovery for any patient. I believe that my degree in Mass Communication will help me in reaching out and talking to people about TB.”

More on the JEET project.