Multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis survivor tells his story
“Your recovery from Tuberculosis (TB) is not complete until you share your journey with others, so that we can bring an end to TB.”
This is the message that Mr Joffrey Jack (43) of Worcester shares as he describes his recovery from multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. Western Cape Government Health congratulates Jack on his recovery and encourages others to faithfully complete treatment for TB or to reach out for help if they stopped.
“I told myself that my journey with TB won’t be complete until I become a mouthpiece for it, because people don’t take their health seriously,” says Jack.
TB is a leading underlying natural cause of death in the Western Cape. Globally it kills thousands of people each day. There is an urgent need for communities to partner with healthcare workers to find, treat and end the disease.
In September 2020, Joffrey experienced COVID-19 symptoms but tested negative. A couple of months later he was again tested for COVID-19 – this time the result was positive. He recovered, but in April 2021 he started coughing up blood. “I drove myself to the hospital. They took X-rays and after some time confirmed that I had MDR-TB. On the X-ray you could clearly see damage to one of my lungs.”
He is not sure how he contracted MDR-TB, but is thankful that no one else in his family tested positive. TB spreads when someone with the disease who is not aware of his disease or who is not taking his medication, coughs. When others inhale the droplets expelled by the cough, they can get TB. Someone with TB may experience chest pains and cough up blood (like Jack), as well as severe sweating in the night, and unexplained weight loss. During the time Jack had MDR-TB he lost 32 kgs.
Initially he had to take 28 pills a day. He daily went to Worcester Community Day Centre and later on was given the responsibility of taking his medication at home.
“I quickly realized that if I see this through or not, would depend on ME. I had to find a way to make this work,” says Jack. Taking his medication with water made him nauseous. He eventually found that taking it with juice made it easier on his body, but, he asks, how many people have the means to do this?
While he had MDR-TB, he often felt lightheaded and achy. His progress was continually monitored, and his medication adjusted accordingly. Today his face beams when he says he is fully recovered – even the damage TB did to his lung.
“Know the symptoms,” he pleads. “Also, surround yourself with people who will support you. It doesn’t help to be diagnosed, but then the person next to you, breaks you down. When we heard I had MDR-TB, my wife immediately said that we would go on this journey together. I am very grateful to her and staff like Dr Steyn, Sr Felix and Sr Wilson at Worcester Community Day Centre for their encouragement.”
Common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats, fatigue/tiredness.
Easy ways to prevent TB:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Open a window/door for fresh air
- Cough in your elbow
- Go to your clinic if you notice symptoms, or if you need help to restart your TB treatment.