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Improving the health of the population in Romania by increasing TB control

Project financed by the Norwegian Grants 2009 - 2014, within the RO 19 - Public Health Initiative.

Liliana G. is 28, she is a real estate agent and in October she was admitted to the “Marius Nasta” Institute of Pulmonology where she was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

I live in a village in Teleorman County, but I work in Bucharest. Everything started with a food poisoning at the end of September, when I was taken to the Municipal Hospital. There, among other tests, I also had a chest X-ray and the doctors saw a spot. They gave me a treatment for pneumonia, which I took for two weeks and then I went to have another X-ray, but the situation had not changed, so I ended up at “Nasta”.

I was not even aware that tuberculosis still existed. The doctor here told me: “You are suspected of TB”. I had the tests done and the results showed that the disease was resistant. For me, it was a shock. I did not even know what resistance meant… Then, I found out. I had expected to stay in hospital for three months at most, then to go home and go on with the treatment for six to eight months, but I was told it was going to last longer. I am here since October 18, and I’m supposed to leave mid-December.

My immune system was very weak, and the tests showed this too. Nobody in my family had ever had tuberculosis, nor had any of our neighbours, I simply took the microbe from somewhere and I suspect it was from the public transport means or from work. I found out that it is spread by air, and I work a lot with people, I am a real estate agent. All sorts of clients come, one never knows… What happened to me, I don’t wish it on anybody. I was working very much, six days a week, ten hours a day, plus commuting to and from home. I was very weak. I live in Teleorman and sometimes I would travel the 50 km distance to work in Bucharest, and used public transport.

I have pictures of my family, of my nieces, next to my bed. My family visits me every week here. I live with my father and my sister. They were heartbroken when they found out I had tuberculosis, they couldn’t cope with it, they were feeling that they had no strength left, as if the world had just ended. We lost my mother five years ago, and when this happened it was like seeing them reliving it all over again… I told myself that if I complain about it would do them no good either. I gathered my strength for them.

I did not have adverse reactions to the treatment, but I trained myself not to have any. If I have a bad day, the pain starts, but I prefer not to think about it. It is very important to have the support of your family, to know there is something waiting for you when you get out of the hospital, and so I only thought about what was making me feel good. I willed myself not to have any pain. If I felt a little pain in my leg, I would say it was nothing. And so far I haven’t had any adverse reactions to the drugs.

I have a degree in psychology and I told myself I had to be able to be in control of this. I also attended the flight school in Băneasa, to become a flight attendant. I worked for a time at a company until it went bankrupt. Now, I will no longer be able to work in this profession, because of the TB diagnosis. I worked for three years at the real estate agency. They are still waiting for me, I told them about the diagnosis and they said that all I had to do was get better and that they would wait for me. But I can’t do it. After I get out of here I will stay at home for two or three months and then I will look for a job that will enable me to work less, eight hours a day at least, because I can’t spend too much at home anyway.

What happened will definitely change me, because I will be more careful about my diet. I was not eating enough. I used to eat once a day, in the evening, because I had no time. Even if I wanted to eat, I was always on the field, and when I was at the office, I was speaking to clients on the phone. The phone was driving me crazy, it would never stop ringing. I would grab something to eat and just as I sat down some client would come and I had to get up.

Otherwise, the disease does not discourage me, it makes me stronger.

* The patient’s name was modified upon her request.