Stop TB in My Lifetime: Kenni’s Story
Kenni, a mother of two young daughters, became very sick in 2012 with a respiratory illness. After numerous misdiagnoses, she finally learned she had tuberculosis (TB).
"I wanted to tell my story so others can see that TB still happens in this country, and can happen to anyone," says Kenni. "The good news is that once you get a correct diagnosis and get on the right treatment, you will start to get better."
In early 2012, Kenni came down with a cough and fever, and was told by a doctor it was a respiratory infection. "I took the antibiotics I was given, but felt no better; in fact, it was the worst I’ve ever felt. I was coughing so much my ribs hurt." Another doctor told her she had severe bronchitis.
Kenni kept working as a dental hygienist and helping out at her mom’s café. "Eventually, I couldn’t even turn in a customer’s order, I was so out of breath. My mom insisted I go get a chest x-ray."
She did, and was told she had pneumonia. She was then sent to a lung specialist who told her it was probably viral. With so many doctor visits and diagnoses, but no medicine that helped, Kenni was exhausted.
That weekend her sister, who is a nurse, came over. "She saw how sick I was and said ‘This sounds like TB. I’m taking you to the emergency room.’"
"At the ER, a physician assistant saw something on my chest x-ray that looked like a big white cloud, and ordered a CAT scan. After the CAT scan, he came in wearing a mask saying he was concerned I could have TB, but he needed to do a bronchoscopy to make a diagnosis."
The next week, with terrible, severe pain in her lungs and chest, Kenni was admitted to the hospital for the bronchoscopy and blood work. After 3 days, she was told that she likely did have TB and was started on standard TB treatment. "I knew the medicine was working because soon after starting it, my fever broke," Kenni recalls.
Nine days later, after her TB was confirmed and she was responding to treatment, Kenni returned home. "I was so happy to see my children. They were also tested for TB, as was my husband. Thankfully, none of them were infected," says Kenni.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) TB control program worked with Kenni as she continued her long treatment regimen—taking multiple pills every day for 9 months. "I got a lot of help from Kim, the public health nurse assigned to me. Kim is a terrific person who really helped me get through the long months of treatment. Kim would meet wherever it was convenient for me each day."
Right before Christmas 2012, Kenni took her last dose of TB medicine. Since then, she has been healthy and TB-free. She is back to her busy schedule of being a wife, a mother, and working two jobs.
Kenni doesn’t know where or how she became infected with TB. Looking back, Kenni regrets that it took so long for a diagnosis. Because TB is no longer common in this country, doctors may not "think TB" when they see patients who have TB symptoms.
One bright spot for Kenni, besides getting better and getting her life back, was the help she received from the Texas TB control program, and specifically the assistance she got from Kim, her TB nurse. Kenni gives Kim much credit for her success in completing treatment. "I want others to know that if they or their loved ones ever come down with this frightening disease, there is help available from nurses and others in the state public health TB program."
World TB Day
Each year, World TB Day is observed on March 24. TB is one of the world's deadliest diseases. It's estimated that 2 billion people — one third of the people in the world — are infected with the bacteria that causes TB. Each year, nearly 9 million people in the world become sick with TB disease; in 2011 about 1.4 million deaths were attributed to TB. And while the number of TB cases in the United States has been declining since 1993, TB still is a life-threatening problem. Anyone can get TB, but there remains a higher-than-normal burden of TB among racial and ethnic minorities. This is due to unequal distribution of TB risk factors that can increase the chance of developing the disease.
World TB Day gives CDC and others a chance to educate the public that TB remains a problem in much of the world, including the United States. This day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about TB-related problems and solutions, and to support worldwide TB-control efforts. For the second year, CDC is joining the global Stop TB Partnership in adopting the theme, "Stop TB in my lifetime." People are encouraged to imagine a world free of TB and to state what changes they expect in their lifetimes such as a better TB test, faster treatment, or no more TB deaths.
What CDC is Doing
Researchers in CDC's Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, with their partners in the TB Trials Consortium and the TB Epidemiologic Studies Consortium, are at the forefront of research that is striving to make the world free of TB. We can only reach the goal of a world free of TB by working together to detect, treat, and prevent TB so that people, just like Kenni, do not have to suffer through this disease.
Read more TB personal stories like Kenni’s at http://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/personalstories.htm
World TB Day Resources
- CDC World TB Day
- CDC World TB Day Resources
- CDC World TB Day Observance
- History of World TB Day
- Forging Partnerships to Eliminate Tuberculosis (guide and toolkit)
- Global Stop TB Partnership – World TB Day
Additional Information About TB
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