Success Stories

 

For Edith, the Grass Now Looks Green

 

Love, care and joy are evident in the words of Edith Garba, the intriguing 29-year-old lawyer who is now continuing her multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) medications at home, after eight months of hospital-based intensive treatment in Zaria.

When Edith was rushed to the 20-bed MDR-TB clinic facility of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Training Center (NTBLTC) in Saye, Zaria on the 4thof December 2012, by her mum, she was writhing in severe pains. She was in frail health scarcely weighing 37 kilograms and almost dying. “I prayed when she almost died and I told the devil he cannot take my child away because he didn’t give me any child. God did,” says Mrs. Comfort Thomas, Edith’s mum.

Now she’s well and weighing 69 kilograms. “Physically, I feel a lot better. The cough has subsided though I still cough a bit. Breathing is easier and I can run now. I can carry bricks. There’s no sign of fever again. Before, I had issues with temperature but now I have a very stable temperature and my appetite is perfect,” says Edith who lives at Mararaba-Rido village, in Kaduna State.

Edith’s recurrent bouts with tuberculosis started in November 2008 when an X-ray revealed she had TB. “I discovered I was ill around August 2008 and was treating pneumonia at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Shika until four months later when an X-ray revealed it was TB.” She started treatment immediately and was able to complete her studies as a law student of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. When she graduated, she left for Lagos where she continued treatment at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) around February 2009. “I took my drugs for like 10 months, went to youth service and didn’t go back to LUTH for checkup. I thought I was okay. Before I went to Law School, I was back on admission in LUTH for two weeks for the same reason,” she says, adding, “So I went to Law School and stopped taking the drugs. This sickness came back and throughout 2010 I was on drugs. In October 2011, I broke down again.”  At this stage doctors started suspecting drug resistance. “This sickness kept reoccurring until December 2012 when it was confirmed in NTBLTC that it was MDR-TB.”

 

Edith, family & community ties

For her, tuberculosis has triple effects on those blessed enough to recover from it. First, there was the fear of death and/or periods of hospitalization to worry about. “It was not easy. I trudged up the hills to get to this stage. Actually, it was very painful but I refused to give up. I gained solace and consolation in God’s word. I couldn’t just die,” she says.

The next is not personal. Many people got engaged in the care of Edith and contributed immensely. “I never experienced stigma. People around me never treated me differently. They showed me love especially my mum. She had sleepless nights praying and taking care of me. She fed me like a baby.” According to Mrs. Thomas, a retired customs officer, “she is my daughter. I know the value of a child. She is a gift from God and I cannot stigmatize her. When my own siblings tried to stigmatize her, I resisted. They said that she has HIV and I said ‘no’ she doesn’t have HIV. Today, with her state of health, God has made my story so sweet.”

Her elder sister, who lives in Port Harcourt, also contributed tremendously. “She would call every morning and send money. She ensured that I lacked nothing. Her father -in-law and church members joined hands constantly to pray for me to be well.” Though it was Mrs. Thomas that rushed her daughter to the hospital when she was close to death, Edith’s fiancé remained faithful. He visited her throughout the months of her hospitalization and was the one who came to pick her up from the hospital when she was discharged last August. “He never left me alone throughout my period of travail. He kept visiting me from Lagos,” she says, revealing she will be getting married to him as soon as she is through with her medications next year.

When Edith’s health began to ebb away, her neighbors did not give up on her. “They visited me at home. They prayed for me. When I look in their eyes I see pain. People around me showed me love. I’m a very grateful person when I think how people sacrificed their earnings and time for me,” Edith says, though Mrs. Thomas says “a few kept their distance for precautionary reasons.”

Edith says “the grass now looks green. I see life in a new way. I’m thankful and I’m happy because this wonderful hospital in Saye provided me a bed, treatment and caring hands. I was richly encouraged by the doctors and the nurses who never lost hope in us (MDR-TB patients). They will gather us and talk to us. They were close, available.” Her story is not however without some challenges. “I’m getting bald and my joints hurt. I’m not sure if it is drug reaction,” she reveals. The Senior Medical Officer and MDR-TB Focal Person in the hospital, Dr. Zakariya Mohammed says, “she will be fine because some of these reactions are reversible after she completes the course of treatment and management.”  

Her recovery from this critical type of tuberculosis – MDR-TB shows how the family, community and the hospital play important role in the fight against this scourge in Nigeria. Edith’s now blissful smile of joy would not have been possible without this synergy and the financial support of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) through the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Program and the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria (IHVN).