I suffered out of ignorance and why you don’t need to


Last year in early December, I had coughs. At first, it was mild but later it became severe and persistent. I ignored it because I also had a cold. I assumed it was a normal and that it would disappear after a week or two as all had earlier. Three weeks later, I was still coughing. At this point, it was now very crucial to see a doctor because the cold was gone. The diagnosis was that I had lim (kilimi) and so it was cut. That was in late December.

However, after it was cut, I was still coughing. I was told that once the wound heals, the coughing would go and so I believed it. In January, I had to report back to college and so when the set date reached, I just packed and travelled to Eldoret from Siaya.

During my first weeks after my return to campus, I visited the University dispensary for medication. Unfortunately, the much they (doctors) could do was give me cough syrup, tablets and capsules. After two full dosages, I decided to ask the doctor what the matter was with me.

He insisted that it was the weather change and he attributed my cough to the cold. He said my home might be hot and Eldoret was cold, to which I confirmed. He gave me more capsules and tablets. Loyal to the doctor's recommendation, I took and finished the dosage. The coughing did not go. At this point I was becoming weak and I had begun missing my lectures. When I went back to the doctor, I asked him if it was tuberculosis I was suffering from. The University dispensary does not do TB tests and therefore, he gave me a form referring me to a hospital outside campus, five kilometres away.

I did not hesitate to go there. In fact, I went on the very day he gave me the form. My sputum smear was tested. The results were terrible. I had triple plus (+++) mucopurulent pulmonary tuberculosis. I had to start medication as soon as possible or else, I would risk death.

When I came back with the results back to the University, the doctor was also surprised as I had suffered a lot from this deadly disease. He then put me on medication. Twenty fourth of this month (April) will mark two months into the medication.

On my first night of medication, I felt very sad. I could not still believe the fact that I had tuberculosis and that I'd be taking four (big) tablets each day for six months or so. I was depressed.

I later came to realize that the wound I had in my throat had favoured the contraction of the bacteria. I learnt of this in what was a joke between my brother Joseph and me. I had asked him how come I had contracted the disease. I had travelled in crowded matatus before, I had been to overcrowded places and so on. How come this round? Or was it by a miracle? And we had laughed over it.

It also happened that a certain woman (a close friend of my mother) had her 'kilimi' cut and after one and half months realized that she had TB. That was about two years ago. My brother then told me of the relationship between the two. I am now taking my drugs and feeling a bit better. Every week on Monday, before I begin my day's schedule, I have to collect my week's pack of tablets. Although I am taking the medication seriously, I feel very weak at my joints. I climb staircases when going to my room (second floor) with a lot of difficulty.

Ochieng’ Obunga is a third year B. Ed (English/Literature) student at Moi University.

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