Virginia has been a MUKIKUTE volunteer for over 20 years and fell ill with TB a second time.
“I have been a MUKIKUTE volunteer since the mid-90’s. I joined because like many of the volunteers I had suffered from tuberculosis (TB) myself so I know what people with disease are going through. I carry out home visits to people who are too ill to get to clinic and I help care for them and teach their family or carers how to nurse them back to good health. I also help give them their treatment if they have already been diagnosed as TB-positive.
My first experience of TB was when I was eight years old. I was taken to a witch doctor who advised my parents to prepare magical remedies for me to drink. When these didn’t work, I was taken to hospital where I was examined by a doctor with a stethoscope who diagnosed me with TB. Over the next few days I was given 14 injections in my arms and legs. That was the treatment in those days. I hated it and I was so scared to go back each time! But I got better.
Then I recently contracted TB again. I am in regular contact with TB patients and I think that being exposed to TB droplets from their coughing has over time enabled the disease to take hold. I am old now so perhaps my body defence is not as strong as it used to be.
I know the symptoms well, so I went to get tested straight away, but the tests were negative, meaning I was not able to access the treatment. That was very frustrating, and as I got worse I began to fear that I might die from the disease. That would have been ironic! In the end I had six tests and all of them were negative.
I was saved by APOPO’s TB detection rats. My sputum sample had been sent to them and the rats immediately sniffed out my TB. The sample was then rechecked in the APOPO laboratory using WHO-endorsed methods, and the TB was confirmed. As soon as APOPO let the clinic know I had TB I was called back in and started treatment. Thank you APOPO and the HeroRATs!
Now I am back at full health and visiting patients once more. I know the risks but I also know that they need me.”
By supporting a TB detection program, you can transform an entire community.