Hassan was very sick with an undiagnosed illness. APOPO retested his sample and diagnosed him TB positive.
“My name is Hassan Kitumbui and I am 42 years old. I support a wife, one child and my elderly mother. I work at a small market in Dar es Salaam at a fruit vendor selling bananas, watermelons and any other seasonal fruits that are available. Recently I was very sick with tuberculosis and thought I would die. APOPO and the HeroRATs saved my life! This is my story.
A while back, I began to feel my chest, had a bad cough, lost my appetite, and became very thin. I eventually went to the clinic to get tested when cough medicine was not helping, and it only got worse. To my surprise the result was negative. A few days later my cough worsened, and spots of blood appeared.
Life is hard with a family to feed and school fees to pay, and soon I was too weak to work. I went to another hospital and was tested for tuberculosis (TB). My TB affected my work as a fruit seller and dropped my income drastically. I felt like I was letting my family down. It’s hard not knowing why you are sick or what to do about it.
In the results waiting room, a woman from MKUTA came looking for me. She spoke to me about TB and gave me a flyer about the illness and how to protect your loved ones. She told me that my sample had been sent to APOPO and TB detecting rats had found the disease! Rats! I refused to believe it, but she said it was true and that I could begin treatment for TB that is supplied free of charge by the government.
I began a 6-month course of treatment and I had to stay home so I wouldn’t infect others. My wife and son stay with my mother to support her since my father passed away. So, they were safe. But I taught them about precautions when they came to see me. Windows open and lots of air through and I would always cough into a handkerchief or my elbow and keep some distance from them.
I thank God I didn’t face stigma and discrimination because the MKUTA volunteer who was supervising how and when I take my dose, visited me at home. She spoke to neighbours and raised awareness about the illness and how it is passed on to people I live with. In fact, she rallied them to support me where they could, and they did. She would bring my weekly medication to my home, so I didn’t have to go out. This was very helpful and truly helped me stay on treatment as there were times when I had no energy or the means to travel to the clinic. These community health workers really encouraged me throughout the process.
If you get sick and suspect tuberculosis, get tested immediately. If the result is negative but you are still sick, keep going, the rats will test your sample if you go to the bigger clinics. The smaller ones are very helpful but sometimes they are too busy and do not have enough resources.
I am very grateful that APOPO trains rats to save lives. I finished my course of treatment and am grateful to have made a full recovery, I have even started putting on weight. I am much stronger and have gone back to work. And I am still careful. If the rats had not diagnosed my tuberculosis, I think I would be dead by now.”