Deaf or Dead? The Unbearable Choice for some TB Patients
Like death, hearing loss is irreversible. I never imagined that I would have to choose between the two until seven years ago when I became infected with tuberculosis (TB), a contagious disease caused by an airborne bacterium.
TB is curable, but some strains are resistant to first line treatment, which can be the beginning of a nightmare for the infected person, as I found out in 2010. I was in the first year of undergraduate studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa. Life was normal. I had normal conversations with people. I listened to music and watched TV shows with no subtitles. I could hear.
Things changed when I began losing weight, rapidly enough to raise questions in my mind, I went to a doctor. After several rounds of testing, all of which came up negative for any serious ailments, the doctor recommended a chest X-ray. It showed that I had TB.
I took the prescribed medications but over time, the doctors were concerned that I was getting worse instead of improving. Another test showed that I had MDR-TB. The doctors said I would need to take up to 25 tablets a day for two years, including an injection called Kanamycin. That I would take once a day for at least six months. My normal life turned into distant memories.
I was a willing patient immediately, taking the treatment exactly as the doctors instructed. Kanamycin is a powder, to which water is added before it is injected into the muscle through a syringe. The sharp pain when the needle makes contact is nothing compared to the fiery feel of the drug entering the body. I endured it every day for four months until they were stopped for the worst possible reason.
I woke up one morning and something felt different but I could not immediately put my finger on what it was. Then I went to the bathroom; there was no sound of flushing toilet or water running from the tap. I reported this to the nurse and, as she talked back to me, I realized I could not hear her. My confusion deepened as I could not hear what I was saying either – could not hear my own voice!
To read the whole Phumeza Tisile's report, click here.
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