Tuberculosis (TB) is a tough infectious disease. But it is possible for total recovery and elimination of the disease from communities when patients adhere to treatment.
In February 2022, Evelyn Tabai, then five years old started coughing. Her mother Teddy Nansubuga, never expected a return to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital to care for her as a TB patient.
For a month, she had twice cared for her partner Paul Ocan at Mbale Hospital when he suffered drug resistant TB in March 2019 and January 2020. Each time, she continued supporting to receive nine months of treatment support from Kerekeni HC III, Butebo District, Eastern Uganda.
“It was not easy. Each time it happened, we were not prepared. I heard about TB the first time my partner fell ill,” says Nansubuga. “But I had to be firm. I prayed to God for strength.”
Nansubuga and Ocan, residents of Kabekuni village, Kakoro Parish, Kakoro Sub-County, Butebo District, Eastern Uganda first bought tablets to ward off Tabai’s cough. But Tabai fond of her baby brother Jotham Odemuni, would no longer carry him as often as she used to. At the time, Odemuni was seven months old. The parents bought some medication from nearby drug shops but Tabai continued to lose weight and became weak. Odemuni followed suit.
“When I saw the signs, I suspected that my children had got TB,” says Nansibuga. “I asked my partner to take them for testing. We went to Mbale Hospital direct to get them tested. They were both positive for DR TB,” says Nansubuga.
Nansubuga remained at Mbale Hospital with the infants and Ocan returned home and transported his older two children to the in the regional drug resistant TB treatment centre for TB testing. Fortunately, these two were both negative.
Both infants were admitted to Mbale Hospital for a month, with their mother as their caretaker. Ocan stayed home with the older children.
“When the tests for Evelyn and Jotham came back positive, I worried about them completing the medication. I know how tough those drugs can be,” says Ocan.
In Mbale Hospital Nansubuga endeavored to care for the children in the same manner she did when her partner was ill. The children took their medication on time, and ate food regularly. Even when they developed joint and back pain and headaches at the start of their treatment, Nansubuga continued giving them the drugs.
When the children were discharged from Mbale Hospital the Butebo District TB and Leprosy Supervisor, Adam Mukenye arranged for a meeting for the Kakoro HC III health workers where Tabai and Odemuni were to complete their nine-month treatment. Brenda Katengeke a Community Health Worker at the facility was chosen to support the family in their treatment journey. Baylor-Uganda trained community health workers like Katengeke to support TB and HIV clients to adhere to treatment. Every morning, one of the parents took the children to Kakoro HC III for drugs.
“They were very cooperative. The mother was very keen on her children’s treatment. Any time I forgot, she would remind me,” says Katengeke.
The children are due for another review in June. But preliminary tests indicate that both children are TB-free. Saving on the transport refund received from the Global Fund to fight AIDS and Tuberculosis and Malaria through the The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), the parents received to Mbale Hospital, they started rearing pigs. The piglets are sold to cater for the children’s school fees, says Nansubuga.
Says Ocan: “I am happy. I can now do all my work. My children get an occasional cough but it soon disappears. I know my children are okay. I had not got help I would have sold my land to treat them. Someone who gives you money for and supports you through illness and treatment offers you a life.