Ending TB through Contact Tracing: Olal’s Story
When 29 year old , Olal Ledon, a father of three and a teacher by professional started having cough that was often accompanied by chills in September 2022, he associated the symptoms to pneumonia.
“I thought my routine of riding the motorcycle to and from school early morning and late in the evening when it is cold had led me to having pneumonia. I bought over the counter medicines and stopped riding the motorcycle and instead used a public service vehicle to commute to school,” Olal shares.
He was wrong because instead of improving, his health kept on deteriorating as days passed.
‘This progressed to having night sweats. I would wake up to wet bed sheets and also started losing weight at a high rate,” Olal adds.
Seeing the suffering their kin was going through, his family persuaded him to visit the nearest hospital, Homabay County Referral Hospital.
At the hospital he was screened at the outpatient clinic and referred to the TB clinic due to the symptoms he was exhibiting.
“This really scared me. I thought people would laugh at me if they found out I had TB. They would say I am also HIV positive. I even contemplated going back home but my siblings who had accompanied me persuaded me to go to the TB clinic,” Olal says.
He adds, “Contrary to my thoughts, the health workers at the TB clinic received me warmly. I was not laughed at, or shown any form of stigma. Upon examination, I was requested to produce sputum that was taken to the laboratory.”
Olal’s sputum sample was analyzed in a geneXpert machine, the most advanced rapid test for the diagnosis of TB and rifampicin resistance when compared to smear microscopy and culture. After one hour, the test results were out, confirming he had TB.
“When the news came back I had TB, my heart sunk. I knew this was the end of me as I had heard people say people with TB die. Seeing the worry in me, the clinician counselled me. He began by explaining to me what causes TB, how it is spread and it is a treatable and curable disease. He also explained to me the importance of completing treatment and coming for the regular drug refills and reviews. I was also tested me for HIV which turned out negative,” Olal shares.
After the diagnosis, he was immediately initiated on treatment. His household members were also screened and tested for the infectious disease whose bacteria spreads when a person with active TB disease coughs, laughs and or sneezes and his/her close contacts inhales the droplets.
“I was requested to bring my wife, children and brother in law whom we were staying with for screening and testing. Only my wife turned negative, the rest had the disease. They were counselled and put on treatment like I was,” Olal says.
Due to treatment adherence and regular clinic reviews, they have all been responding well to treatment.
“Since we began treatment, we all have been progressing well. Personally, the symptoms are gone. I no longer cough, sweat at night or have chills. My weight has improved from 52 kilograms to 65 kilograms. My children look healthy also. None is coughing or having lethargy as was the case before treatment,” he adds.
Olal is grateful to everyone who has supported him and the family in the treatment journey.
“Were it not for the timely free treatment received my family would have been wiped out by this disease and people would have blamed it on witchcraft or curse. My sincere appreciation goes to the health workers and the donor for supporting us. You saved my family and I. Keep up with the good work you are doing.”
USAID TB ARC II activity collaborates with the Ministry of Health National TB Program and various county governments to ensure TB patients like Olal access early diagnosis, treatment and are provided quality of care. This is by strengthening health care providers and facility performance in TB treatment and management through didactic classroom sessions, Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) sessions, and facility based continuous medical education sessions trainings, on job trainings and clinical reviews..
Additionally, the National TB Program expanding and strengthening TB diagnostic network to increase timely use of quality TB and drug resistant TB treatment to patients as well as ensuring proximal access to laboratory tests for all DR-TB patients.
It is currently bundling 189 GeneXpert machines countrywide in public facilities on monthly basis for patient results to reach the clinicians and sub-county TB coordinators on time for patient management; supporting 48 GeneXpert machines super users for basic equipment maintenance in improving functionality of the machines hence enabling results flow in and processing on time in 223 GeneXpert machines sites; and by supporting sample referral of all TB patients culture to the National TB Reference Laboratory and KEMRI – Kisian Laboratory, and DR-TB patients sample referral to Lancet Laboratories for baseline and routine hematological and biochemical laboratory investigations to evaluate potential adverse drug effects in line with National TB Program guidelines.