by Christine Lagat

Elizabeth Wangechi’s cool demeanor and gift of the gab are prized assets in the teaching profession that many societies regard as a noble calling.


The 30-year-old mother has an eloquence, humility and patience that is required to impart lifelong skills and good morals to young learners.
To acquaintances and neighbours, Wangechi stands out as an energetic, focused and healthy adult female and has never revealed signs of a terminal illness.
During an interview with Xinhua on Monday ahead of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on March 24, Wangechi expressed no remorse as she narrated a fierce battle with a rare but lethal TB strain strain.
“I lived a normal life before a TB infection changed the calculus and confined me to daily torment. Regular visits to clinics and a strict treatment schedule was a bleak reality I had to accept after testing positive for tuberculosis,” Wangechi said in Nairobi.
She was diagnosed with TB in 2013 at a government health facility where she sought treatment for a persistent cough, headache, sweating and sneezing.
A resident of the sprawling Mathare suburb located on the eastern fringes of the Nairobi, Wangechi is a living testimony of strength in adversity.
Having been diagnosed with TB, Wangechi scaled down on her day job and social life. Nevertheless, her immediate family and friends stood with her as she underwent a rigorous treatment regime to get rid off an infectious disease that is common in overcrowded urban slums.
“At first I thought the tuberculosis was normal but after five months of treatment, no changes were visible. The drugs were resistant and the scenario prompted me to seek medical attention elsewhere,” said Wangechi.
As the tuberculosis strain became virulent and resistant to drugs, health workers at the state-run dispensary referred Wangechi to a clinic operated by an international medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), for specialized treatment.
It was at the MSF clinic that Wangechi was diagnosed with multi- drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR).
Doctors at the medical charity prescribed a daily dose of TB drugs for the next four months but the condition failed to improve.
“The drugs were not working, and at some point I experienced severe vomiting and chest pains that forced me to go for another test. I became weak and frail,” Wangechi said.
She underwent an extensive blood and sputum test that revealed she had extensive drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), a rare but fatal condition that is expensive to treat.
Kenyan public hospitals do not offer treatment to both multi and extensive drug resistant tuberculosis and only refer patients to private clinics run by charities.
Wangechi had to endure a whole month before the drugs to treat extensive drug resistant TB were available at the MSF clinic in Mathare North.
It cost 50,000 U.S. dollars to treat a patient suffering from extensive drug resistant TB for two years. Thanks to intervention from MSF, Wangechi has enrolled in the treatment program and has completed four months.
“So far, I have responded well to drugs and I have 18 months remaining to complete the treatment cycle. Save for occasional coughs and a slight drop in appetite, I am able to function normally,” Wangechi told Xinhua, adding she is no longer teaching and depends on family members and well wishers for material and emotional support.
Tuberculosis is the fourth leading killer disease in Kenya and is rampant in poor and overcrowded urban slums and rural villages.
Kenyan ministry of health on March 18 launched a new strategy to eliminate Tuberculosis before 2030. Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia said the government will focus on community- led interventions to reduce the TB burden in the country.
As Kenya prepared to mark World TB Day, medics warned the disease remained a major public health challenge.
Hussein Kerrow, an infectious diseases specialist at MSF Kenya, noted that tuberculosis infections have worsened in poor and marginalized regions.
“The poor, malnourished children and HIV positive individuals are at risk of contracting TB. Poor quality drugs, default and interruptions leads to multi drug resistant TB,”Kerrow told Xinhua, saying that MSF clinic in Mathare slums is handling 49 cases of multi drug resistant and one case of extensive drug resistant TB.
Having observed Wangechi’s lethal TB strain closely, Kerrow is confident she will emerge victorious thanks to proper treatment, diet and hygiene.
“It is possible to treat and cure any lethal strain of TB with new cocktail of drugs available in the market. Wangechi has adhered to the treatment regime and we expect her to heal,” Kerrow said. Enditem

Source: Xinhua


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