(For World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March, The Quint is posting a series of articles to raise awareness about the disease, including actions to address stigma, discrimination, marginalisation and overcome barriers to access care.)
Saurabh Rane was a regular 21-year-old with ambitions to be successful in life, when he hit a roadblock.
I was going to college, working two jobs, looking after my fitness and making sure I didn’t fall back in the rat race. I was training to be a doctor when, while working in a medical ward during my internship, I felt sick.
Initially, the doctors thought it was just viral fever. But after two weeks of continued fever, cough and immense weight loss, they decided to go for an X-ray. Saurabh was then diagnosed with tuberculosis.
I couldn’t believe it. I was 21 and was physically fit; how could I get it.
India is considered the TB capital of the world. People with weakened immune systems have a much greater risk of contracting the disease.
Saurabh started on the medication, but despite that he wasn’t getting better even after months. He tried to convince his doctors that they should do more tests, and that’s when he was told to “stop being a doctor and start being a patient”.
But it didn’t get any better for him, and he couldn’t come to terms with why he wasn’t getting cured if it was just TB.
The high fever came back again and he persuaded his doctors to do a sonography to look at his lungs. That’s when they discovered that his right lung was infected as well. Further tests revealed that he was a borderline XDR TB (Extensively Drug Resistant TB) patient.
When the TB bacteria is resistant to at least one of the effective anti-TB drugs, it is called drug resistant TB.
TB isn’t just a physical battle but a mental and emotional struggle as well.
I used to vent by breaking things and weeping, it was getting tough and there were times I felt like ending it all.
Depression is highly common in TB patients, but nobody counsels them, Saurabh adds.
However, he somehow found the courage to fight.
I decided that I was going to defeat TB. I wasn’t only going to survive but I was going to live the life I always wanted.
He started working again and took to light exercising. He decided that he would follow his plans and that TB would have to wait.
While his medication continued, he started paying attention to his nutrition and started with brisk walking and jogging to feel fit.
Later, after months of treatment, he decided to run a half marathon and face the disease head on. He ran the race while he was still on active treatment.
I was told I should feel lucky to be alive, and to learn to live with half a set of lungs. But that’s not what I believed.
Now after speaking out about his condition, Saurabh helps others with various health conditions in any way he can.
(Saurabh Rane is a qualified doctor and a survivor of Drug Resistant TB. He is one of the Survivor Advocates leading the campaign Survivors Against TB.)