TB Personal Stories
My name is Mabruka and I am 29 years old. I am a mother of two, a wife, a daughter, and a sister. I am a peer counselor for patients who are diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB). I am also a TB survivor who has lived through the pain of TB disease and its treatment.
When I first heard of TB, I was a little frightened because I knew of a family member back in Ethiopia who had died of TB. I didn’t think that I could get TB since I lived in America. However, I learned that anyone can get TB.
I was diagnosed with TB disease here in the United States at the age of 18. One day, I came home from school and started to cough forcefully. I felt like I couldn’t stop myself from coughing. I had been feeling sick for about 2 months at this point, but my coughing had not been this extreme. Suddenly, I noticed that I was coughing up blood. At this point I hid it from my family because I didn’t want them to worry, especially my mom. Many times I had gone to the doctor and all they gave me was cough medicine. There was another day where my coughing up blood worsened, so I went into the emergency room. The physician took an x-ray of my lungs and asked me if I had noticed anything different about my health. I told him that I had been experiencing unexplained weight loss, tiredness, shortness of breath, fever, night sweats, chills, loss of appetite, coughing up blood, chest pain, and pain with breathing and coughing. He then told me that I had TB disease. It was evident from my x-ray and the symptoms that I had.
Being diagnosed with TB disease changed my life. Treatment included taking 9 to 10 pills a day over a span of 6 months. I was always fearful that I could get sick again. I didn’t want to participate in any extracurricular activities because I would start to cough forcefully, and I always felt tired. From the moment I woke up to when I went to bed, I remember just feeling so tired. One of the people who helped me stick to the treatment for TB was my mother. She was always so encouraging and supportive in my times of poor health and illness. I also told myself that I had a lot to live for, such as my family, and that I wanted to get better for them. I was young and in high school. I was looking forward to graduating, going to college, getting married, and starting a family.
My family always was there for me, every step of the way during my treatment. They knew what it felt like because my mother, father, brother, and sister were diagnosed with latent TB infection and they had gone through treatment previously. These were the things that I kept in mind as I went through my 6 months of treatment.
“When I first heard of TB, I was a little frightened because I knew of a family member back in Ethiopia who had died of TB. I didn’t think that I could get TB since I lived in America. However, I learned that anyone can get TB.”
The most difficult part of the treatment was taking so many pills every day. I also stayed home from school often because I felt sick a lot. I loved school, so I was very sad when I stayed home. However, my mother took very good care of me. She was always there, cooking and taking care of me. She would try to take my mind off the treatment by telling me stories of people back in our homeland of Ethiopia. There were times that I had to wear a mask over my mouth because the doctor had recommended it. One of the hardest parts was feeling different because people would stare at me when I wore a mask to go outside. However, I was very fortunate to have my very caring, supportive, and loving family by my side.
During my treatment, I also benefitted from having a public health worker check on me every day and watch me take every dose of my medicine, which is called directly observed therapy (DOT). The local TB program was also very supportive. To help me take my medicine, I received $15 vouchers for groceries and protein drinks. In addition, my physician always encouraged me by telling me that I was doing better and that I would be fine soon.
Having TB has given me a new perspective on life. I knew the treatment was good for me and I told myself that I was not going to die of TB. And I am living proof of that. Now that I am a peer counselor at the DeKalb County Board of Health near Atlanta, and I see patients going through the same experience that I went through as a young adult, I share my story with them. I tell them that it will be okay, and that TB is treatable. I always try to help those who need some hope and encouragement by educating them about TB. Educating myself about TB also helped me to overcome my fears. My gift to the patients I work with is simply being a supportive person. It is something that helped me through my journey, and this is what I want to do for others.
I share my story because I want to motivate and inspire others who are diagnosed with latent TB infection, are living with TB disease, or know someone who is diagnosed with TB disease. I want to bring about awareness and educate the public about this disease. TB is misunderstood at times, but I want people to know that it is treatable and that educating yourself is the first and most important step.