Ilze began to suspect that something was wrong as she was feeling weak but simply thought this was down to stress rather than anything else. Along with this weakness, Ilze also had a temperature for the best part of two years. It was this combined with a noise in her ear that led her to think that it was more than just stress.

Ilze decided to go for an x-ray and it was at this point that the doctors established that there was something seriously wrong with her lungs. She was referred for a bronchoscopy but, as is common with TB, it was impossible for the doctors to confirm whether her strain was standard TB or the drug resistant.

It would take three months for doctors to confirm whether Ilze’s strain was standard TB or the drug resistant strain. For three months Ilze was treated for standard TB but once these three months were up the doctors confirmed that her TB was actually multidrug-resistant. This meant that Ilze had to stay at hospital for another three months. In total, Ilze was being treated for 20 months.

For Ilze, one of the worst things about having MDR-TB was the treatment. There were so many side effects to the drugs that only got worse each day that went by. There were only two hours in the day that she felt well and no more.  Treatment for standard TB was bad enough but the treatment for MDR-TB came with another set of problems. Ilze was receiving daily injectables to treat the MDR-TB but the side effects were so bad that these were replaced with Bedaquiline.  The treatment for MDR-TB and being in hospital for such a long period of time took its toll on her psychologically. She did not have access to the appropriate information, there were no online discussions for her to access, and there were no resources available for TB patients. It was only thanks to her experienced doctors, especially Dr. L. Kuksa, and her faith that Ilze feels she could continue with the MDR-TB treatment.

A common experience of many TB patients is the devastating stigma that can come along with the disease. Ilze’s experience was slightly different. For her, as someone who was not from a socially marginalised or at risk group, the reactions from others were more of a surprise. People were shocked that someone like Ilze could get TB. Ilze’s story highlights that anyone can get TB. Despite this, it was still difficult to tell people about her diagnosis and this was a slow process. People were definitely still afraid they could catch  TB and would often ask if it was safe to be with her.

Ilze highlights the need for several things to change in order to improve the TB response in Latvia and further afield. There is a serious lack of financial support  and a lack of available information on the disease or even a platform for patients to ask questions and discuss with each other. Similarly, there are ineffective or limited preventive services and inadequate living conditions in hospitals. Thankfully, Ilze has now completed her treatment and is able to tell her story. This was was simply too difficult during the treatment.

Ilze’s message for other patients is that it is crucial to believe in yourself. A small part of the treatment is medicine but the other part is having faith and confidence that you will get through treatment. Ilze is now working to ensure that others successfully complete their treatment and is raising awareness about the disease amongst people in Latvia and in the wider European Region.


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