Cristina. Nurse. MDR-TB Patient. Survivor.
My name is Cristina. Just like how I introduce myself every time we have trainings for healthcare workers: I am a hospital nurse, who contracted MDR-TB and then turned TB advocate and a training specialist for programmatic management of drug resistant tuberculosis after completing almost 19 months of treatment.
Most of my entire career as a nurse has been spent as a hospital volunteer; not being paid for my work, unable to eat for more than 8 hours because of my duty, tired, with not enough time to rest because of a shifting schedule, not having enough safety equipment to protect myself while on duty and at risk of contracting infectious diseases.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis. I had to resign from work due to fear of not being able to regain my previous healthy state and the fear of being rejected by my coworkers if they found out that I had tuberculosis. I underwent and completed treatment for 6 months (Category I TB). Three months after, TB signs and symptoms started to manifest again. That time, I was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
Like other MDR-TB patients, I had to undergo the long duration of treatment which is 1 1/2 years, take 12-14 pills a day, endure the pain at the injection sites everyday for 6 months and face the different side effects treatment entails (severe vomiting, electrolyte imbalance, difficulty in hearing due to kanamycin injection, ringing of ears and many more). Despite the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, the hardships, stigma and discrimination I had faced, I never gave up and continued the battle.
Now, I’m proud to say: I am a nurse and I am an MDR-TB SURVIVOR.
I am sharing my story and you can share your stories, too.
Cristina Brigaste, RN