It all started in 2008. I am a film director and, at that point of my life, I was working very hard in a large studio in Tbilisi, Georgia. Those days, I felt I had lost all my strength and energy; I was tired all the time and was too exhausted to do my work. I blamed it all on the stress of the job, believing that I only had to relax. Then, one day, while I was in the studio, I sat down on the sofa and couldn’t move any more. Regardless of my efforts, I couldn’t stand up. I had fever. Something was wrong with me.

Luckily my mother is a doctor and quickly brought me to the hospital. The next day we found out that I had TB and already had a 13mm hole in my left lung. When I got the news it was like the world had come to an end and my dreams were shattered. I thought that my life was over. For most of the people in Georgia TB is an incurable scourge. There is so much lack of knowledge around this disease. Fortunately, my doctor took the time to explain me what TB was and gave me hope and strength to fight against this disease. Thanks to his support and that of my family, I was eventually hopeful about winning the battle against TB.

Nevertheless, I was afraid about how the Georgian society would have reacted. This fear and the fact that I was highly contagious lead me to isolation. I locked myself up at home, I switched off my phone and cut off all relationships with the outside world. I was scared that if people around me ever found out that I had TB I could have problems with my job as well as my personal life. So I kept it a secret from everyone except my family.

The treatment period was hell for me! I reacted very badly to the treatment. The pills caused many bad side effects. I was depressed and hid from everyone. From time to time, I thought TB was stronger than me … I was scared of not being able to deal with such difficult treatment. In those moments, I imagined myself in Abastumani, a TB hospital in the mountains built during Soviet times, where many TB and MDR-TB patients are under treatment. That terrified me!

Fortunately after several months, I won the battle with TB. Every 6 months I continue to check my lungs but it seems that I am healthy now. After TB I gave a birth to another girl, the ultimate sign that I had fully recovered.

However, the patients in Abastumani hospital never left my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about how my life might have been at that TB hospital. Last year I therefore decided to make a film about TB, where I could tell everyone that I had this illness and I defeated it. In the film I wanted to portray Abastumani hospital. In my mind it represented such a great source of fear that it gave me the strength to fight for my life.

In December 2014, my colleague Nik Voigt, who is also a filmmaker, and I went to the Abastumani hospital with a camera. We were planning to speak with those people and use the film to show to society the pain of patients who are fighting not only with a disease but with exclusion too. We expected to see patients who didn’t take their pills any more, contagious people that were rejected from society. We expected to find a sad atmosphere and that speaking with patients would have been very difficult.

Surprisingly, the situation was very different from what we imagined. In spite of all adversity, TB patients in Abastumani showed great courage and strength. I met Kale, a patient who has been fighting against TB for 4 years and on whom TB antibiotics had stopped working; and decided to portray him in my film – showing his daily life and interviewing him. I found so much hope in Kale and other patients in Abastumani.

Time is frozen there but everyone has hope that soon life’s clock will start ticking again and they will enjoy life again. People dream to go away from this hospital to start a new life – going back to their families and to work. But at the same time, they don’t spend their time depressed, these are people who look death in the eye every day and see the beauty of life. There is so much that people can learn from TB patients in Abastumani.