CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- In March, before the declaration of enhanced community quarantine due to Covid-19, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) TB Platforms Project worked with Rogaciano Mercado Memorial Hospital (RMMH) in Bulacan in documenting the story on two sisters who survived tuberculosis (TB) at their very young ages--two and seven years old.
Dr. Caroline Bernardo, TB Fast Medical Coordinator of RMMH, said their story inspired the TB program staff to work harder and encourage other patients to adhere to treatment.
“This is the first time we have encountered siblings challenged by this killer disease. One of them was diagnosed with Drug-Resistant TB and the younger one had Multidrug-Resistant TB. If these young sisters survived the challenges of TB treatment, others can get cured as well. We tell that to our patients here. We always explain that the journey is not easy but we will be there for them too,” she shared.
Bernardo stressed that the number of patients who finished treatment is always a work in progress among the medical team, the TB staff, the patient, the family and the community. “It really takes a whole village to cure a TB patient and in the case of these sisters, we really worked doubly hard,” she added.
For the World TB Day Commemoration on March 24, USAid’s TB Platforms prepared the digital storybook and coloring book for kids which detail the challenges of the family in coping up with the treatment. The book explains how the family found out that their first daughter’s more than two weeks of cough and fever was because of TB. After several consultations and laboratory tests, they later found out that their elder daughter has TB as well.
With the full support of their immediate family, the mother left her work and focused on attending to the daily treatment of both daughters. She even experienced emotional breakdowns because she cannot take the possibility that she will lose both of her children if they will not be able to finish the TB treatment.
Fortunately, TB medicines were provided for free in the government hospital. The family went to RMMH daily for six months for the first child and nine months for the other one to complete the required TB treatment. They had to make all ends meet so they can spare some transportation money to bring their children to the hospital together.
TB Nurse Coordinator Aquilina Cruz confessed that the mother got her strength from the collaboration of the healthcare workers and TB Heals, a patient-support group based in the hospital. With all the support of the people attending to her daughters, the mother believed there is hope. They also provided psychosocial counseling to the parents of the children.
This coming August 19 is the National Lung Month Celebration. USAid’s TB Platforms continues to work with RMMH in ensuring the provision of TB services amid Covid-19. The project team collaborates with the program staff in monitoring the adherence of enlisted patients.
“If not for the community quarantine, these sisters will be here with us for the National Lung Month activities. Since they got cured, we usually invite them to share their inspiring story with our stakeholders,” Cruz said.
“We are happy that there is a storybook and coloring book that depicted their life story. We will share these in our social media platforms and we hope that others will learn from the plight of our patients who got cured because they’ve embraced treatment and persevered to get well,” she furthered.
USAid’s TB Platforms Project is working with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) on the information dissemination strategies and media outreach for TB education amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Led by its Chief of Party Marianne Calnan, the project is collaborating with PIA Central Luzon for the upcoming online forum with regional media next month.
This forum will launch inspiring stories about how TB patients survived the disease, why TB staff are frontliners in TB-Covid-19 response, why local government chief executives are championing TB as a priority health agenda and what are the innovative local strategies for continuous TB treatment amid the pandemic. (PR)