Jerick Oñate (pictured)
Drug-resistant TB survivor
I actually had a fever for more than two weeks when I was diagnosed with TB. I suddenly felt heaviness in my breathing, and whenever I climbed up stairs I would easily get tired. I was rushed to the emergency room by my mom, and that’s when I was diagnosed of having water in my left lung. The doctors were having a hard time finding out what was the root cause, so I had to undergo the video assisted thoracic surgery where they removed some water and residue. They tested the residue and they found out that it is M.tb.
“I felt like I became distant”
This had a huge impact on my lifestyle, of course, because I’m actually an outgoing person, I’m an extrovert. I always want to talk to people I’m exposed to and where I work, at one of the biggest business process outsourcing companies here in the Philippines where I run classes in front of my trainees on a day-to-day-basis. So that suddenly changed when I thought I had to avoid them. I would stay home because I have to protect myself from the polluted environment, especially here in Manilla, where it is known to have polluted air. Every time I go outside, I have to wear my mask, which is, for me, I feel so uncomfortable during that time. I felt like I became distant.
We Need New TB Treatments
Every time I take the medicines—and it’s not just a few, but we’re talking about 13 tablets in one take on a daily basis, and on top of that I would also need to have an injection every day for six months straight. I would say that it was one, literally painful, part of my life because my muscles were really swollen. It was so difficult. I had a hard time moving. I had a hard time walking. Even when I stand, it was painful. And I feel disoriented every time I’m under the side effects of the medication, which lasts for four to six hours. Normally I would feel dizzy and I could only lie down on my bed, and sometimes I just needed to sleep to get through the side effects and the dizziness.
If future TB patients are able to take fewer medicines for a shorter period of time, I think the only other thing that would matter is the side effects and it would be better if there was a treatment without the painful injectable. I’m looking forward to a future where TB no longer exists.
Jerick’s treatment was managed by the Tropical Disease Foundation, a research partner of TB Alliance based in the Philippines. TB Alliance is a non-profit organization that is developing short, all-oral drug regimens for all forms of TB. Learn more at www.tballiance.org