Meet Hạnh

“I’m an athlete on the national Vietnamese Karate team and I participated in the Southeast Asian Games in 2003, 2005, 2007. As an athlete, I’m rarely ever ill and have always had good health. But that does not mean I’m invincible. A while ago I began to cough, a cough that went on for quite some time. I lost weight, felt exhausted, I had chest pain and late afternoon fevers. I went for a health check, did a few tests and was diagnosed with TB. All of a sudden the symptoms became very real. I have TB.

I’ve been on TB treatment for four months now. It’s been quite a change for me. I teach physical education and participate in many activities. In the early months, my body was weak. I wanted to continue going about my daily routine but I felt exhausted. I felt like I couldn’t do anything. It was during this time that I came to appreciate health and how important it is to our wellbeing. When I first began treatment, community healthcare workers from the Zero TB Viet Nam project visited, counseled me on TB, and encouraged me to get my family tested. I knew the risks of infection – getting them tested is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. I encouraged my family, my parents, siblings, my children and my friends to get tested. They all received a free chest X-ray and sputum test [Xpert MTB/RIF]. Fortunately, nobody else has been infected with TB so far.

Personally I think fighting TB requires dedication. My family, friends and colleagues ask me how I’m doing and are very supportive. They give me a shoulder to lean on, provide words of encouragement and remind me to rest and take medicines regularly. All this has helped a lot. I hope everybody understands more about TB and knows that emotional support brings a lot of comfort to the patient.

The [ZTV] project does a lot of good for the local community – the project and the community healthcare workers help us understand TB disease, help us receive and stay on treatment. I think that’s very beneficial.

I hope to successfully fight TB and regain full health. I hope people know how protect themselves against contracting TB. Early detection is key – if there are first signs of symptoms, do get a CXR, get a sputum test. Don’t wait until it’s too late!”

Meet Hạnh

“I’m an athlete on the national Vietnamese Karate team and I participated in the Southeast Asian Games in 2003, 2005, 2007. As an athlete, I’m rarely ever ill and have always had good health. But that does not mean I’m invincible. A while ago I began to cough, a cough that went on for quite some time. I lost weight, felt exhausted, I had chest pain and late afternoon fevers. I went for a health check, did a few tests and was diagnosed with TB. All of a sudden the symptoms became very real. I have TB.

I’ve been on TB treatment for four months now. It’s been quite a change for me. I teach physical education and participate in many activities. In the early months, my body was weak. I wanted to continue going about my daily routine but I felt exhausted. I felt like I couldn’t do anything. It was during this time that I came to appreciate health and how important it is to our wellbeing. When I first began treatment, community healthcare workers from the Zero TB Viet Nam project visited, counseled me on TB, and encouraged me to get my family tested. I knew the risks of infection – getting them tested is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. I encouraged my family, my parents, siblings, my children and my friends to get tested. They all received a free chest X-ray and sputum test [Xpert MTB/RIF]. Fortunately, nobody else has been infected with TB so far.

Personally I think fighting TB requires dedication. My family, friends and colleagues ask me how I’m doing and are very supportive. They give me a shoulder to lean on, provide words of encouragement and remind me to rest and take medicines regularly. All this has helped a lot. I hope everybody understands more about TB and knows that emotional support brings a lot of comfort to the patient.

The [ZTV] project does a lot of good for the local community – the project and the community healthcare workers help us understand TB disease, help us receive and stay on treatment. I think that’s very beneficial.

I hope to successfully fight TB and regain full health. I hope people know how protect themselves against contracting TB. Early detection is key – if there are first signs of symptoms, do get a CXR, get a sputum test. Don’t wait until it’s too late!”

Fighting TB through old age

“I have been coughing up sputum for 2 years, but I hesitate to visit a doctor because I don’t want to become a family burden. Until I lost my weight rapid in recent months (i.e., 40 kilograms down to 26 kilograms) and felt breathlessness, my son took me to the local hospital. Doctors here transferred me to District Tuberculosis Unit (DTU) based upon their possible suspects of tuberculosis. The health officer at DTU asked me to perform a plain chest X-ray and two sputum samples for confirmatory. I started receiving my treatment for tuberculosis a week ago. I don’t feel comfortable to take these drugs: vomiting and loss of my vision and speech.

I am living with 5 offspring in a rented house. I don’t have my own room, so I often wear the mask to prevent my family from disease transmission. Since the day I was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a counselor from PROPER CARE program usually visits my house to advise me not to get rid of my therapy, and encourage my family members to go screening for tuberculosis.

My current health doesn’t allow me to go out, so nobody know my condition. However, my family members don’t want to mention my disease to anyone because they scare a potential rise of discrimination in our neighbors.

With my age, 82 years old, I just wish to recover as soon as possible. This disease makes me lie on the bed all day and uncomfortable.”

TB services for Islanders

“To be honest, we islanders don’t know much about tuberculosis and how it is spread. My husband had TB many years ago and back then the whole family went in for testing, but nobody contracted TB at the time. From that experience, I learned that TB is curable, but that it is curable only if you complete the treatment regimen.

Personally, I regularly go for health check-ups, especially as I get older. When I do, I take the ferry to the mainland and drive to Vinh Duc General Hospital in Dien Ban [12 km outside of Hoi An, Quang Nam]. But despite the health checks, I have never tested for TB. Recently, a team from the provincial hospital came to screen the community for TB. They also provided other services such as screening for diabetes, hypertension, and abdominal ultrasound. I received a TST test and came back a few days after for a reading at the commune health station. Even though I felt fine, the doctors explained that I had TB infection. They gave me TB drugs and instructed me to follow treatment for the next 3 months.

The first two weeks…were a difficult time for me. I didn’t feel better at all. I had trouble breathing, I felt weak and tired and even fainted a couple times. I was scared and sought consultation from doctors at the commune health station. They explained that I was experiencing some side effects of the drugs, but encouraged me to carry on with the treatment and not give up. After a few weeks, the side effects became minimal. I didn’t want the TB infection to progress to actual TB disease. It was that simple fear that pushed me to complete treatment. I finished 3 months ago!

It’s not often that a health team from the Quang Nam mainland comes out here [to the island] to provide health services and medicines for the people. For that we are thankful – thankful for helping this community eliminate TB. To people with TB infection, I hope that you take advantage of the services readily available at the moment. It’s within our grasp to end TB by completing treatment!”

(Cu Lao Cham Island, Quang Nam, Viet Nam)

Believe, good things are on the way

“I thought that I lost everything on the day when I was diagnosed with Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis at the beginning of this year. As a man of the house, I used to be responsible for looking after my family. Because my health is not good enough, I had to quit my job. Also, I wanted to withdraw the therapy when my condition became worse at the first months of treatment: loss of my appetite, vomiting, drowsy, and loss of vision. My wife had to stop working to take care of me as well. I felt useless and miserable since being acquired to this disease. Our trembling marriage was about to end because of the financial burden and my bad mood during.

Fortunately, we have Ms. Hue, the counselor from PROPER CARE. She is always by our sides from the first day of my treatment. She inspires me of future life with tuberculosis-free if I do my best to continue my long regiment. Our marriage is also healed thanks to her counselling. After 8-month following treatment, my condition is getting better when side effects of drugs are ameliorated. Now I gained weight about 20 kilograms compared to the time I started my therapy. This also gives my family a hope, but also persuades the surrounding people with the stigma of tuberculosis to change their minds – tuberculosis is a treatable and curable disease.

As any patient with MDR-TB, I just only desire a full recovery after finishing my treatment. With my experiences and sympathy obtained during my treatment for tuberculosis, I hope to contribute my endeavors to help other patients like me. I believe that where there’s a will there’s a way.”

"Don’t be shy. If we are sick, we should get treatment"

That is what Mr. Nghia shared with us after completing his treatment and beating his battle with TB in April 2020.

In the beginning of 2019, Mr. Nghia wasn’t feeling well and decided to visit a private clinic for a health examination. After obtaining a chest X-ray, the doctor advised him to visit a specialized TB medical facility. However, traveling to the facility was a big challenge for him, and he remained undiagnosed until a mobile chest X-ray event run by FIT was held at his local Commune Health Station. He was invited to attend and received a second chest X-ray and a GeneXpert test. Mr. Nghia was diagnosed with TB.

A District TB Unit staff member quickly jumped to action by informing Mr. Nghia of his diagnosis and instructed him to register for a free 6-month TB treatment program through the Viet Nam National TB Program. He was also referred to the Commune Health Station where he could receive TB care and treatment monitoring.

Mr. Nghia expressed that he faced some difficulties when he had to go to work, but needed to adhere to his treatment and obtain supervision from the Commune Health Station staff. He did his best to balance both priorities of being cured of TB and finishing his work in the office. He needed to follow a strict treatment regimen and visited the Commune Health Station every 2 days to ensure he was fully adhering to his treatment. Due to this level of support and care, Mr. Nghia soon felt better.

Mr. Nghia’s family played an important role in facilitating his treatment completion. He currently lives with his wife and his 3-year-old son. His wife and son always encouraged him to take the correct dose of his medication at the right time, and reminded him of his appointments. During the first 2 months of Mr. Nghia’s supervised treatment, he limited his contact with his family as much as possible, but his family was always by his side in supporting his fight against TB.

Mr. Nghia feels extremely lucky that he had access to the mobile chest X-ray event and was able to be swiftly diagnosed and linked to treatment. During the last 6 months of his treatment, he received financial support from the Social Support Program through Erase TB to assist him with the economic burdens of living with TB. The financial stipend helped him afford more nutritious food to bolster his recovery. FIT staff also called him to check on his health and gave him advice throughout his treatment. All these factors greatly encouraged him to continue his treatment, despite the difficulties.

According to a now TB-free Mr. Nghia, TB should not be stigmatized, and people with TB can be cured. He realizes many people do not get treatment because they feel insecure and are afraid of how they will be viewed by others. As a TB patient who has just finished his treatment, he wants to send an important message to others who are wary of seeking care. 

Mr. Nghia wants to thank the Erase TB project for supporting him and his family throughout his treatment. He wishes for the mobile chest X-rays and Social Support Program to reach many more patients so that they can be supported as well.

It's all fine now!

“I started to feel tired all the time, I had afternoon fevers. And then there was coughing, constant coughing, the medicines didn’t help at all. It went on for 2 months before I went to the hospital for diagnosis. They took a chest X-ray and said it showed lung abnormalities. They concluded that I had TB. So I began to take TB medicines. It was easy and I didn’t think much about how taking the medicines would be difficult. All I thought of was that taking the medicines would help me get well again and I was determined to take them as instructed. This would help not only me, but also the community.
But during moments of complete exhaustion, I did feel the heavy toll of the disease on me. My own children took care of me and told me to simply concentrate on my treatment, to focus on eating regular meals and not to worry about anything else. Yet I worried. I worried that if I didn’t complete my treatment, TB will continue to spread to others in the community, to my family and my two grandchildren. I thought of my grandchildren first – they were my motivation to compete treatment.
I also worried for people outside my family. Before I completed treatment in February, I was invited to a dinner party, but I declined the invitation. It was me who felt like I should refrain from regular contact because I didn’t want people to be at risk of infection, not my friends.
There are things that I do appreciate from the ZTV project, such as the fact that Ms. Luong paid me frequent visits to ask me about my health and to provide me with advice and encouragement. I really appreciated that. I felt personally cared for. That’s a great benefit of the ZTV project.
Now that I am cured of TB, I want to say thanks to everyone who helped me through the treatment process. I want to thank my family, the community, and the project for providing me with so much support. I hope the project will continue support many more patients with TB like myself. The more TB patients we support, the sooner we can stop TB in the community. I recently went in for a health check – everything was fine. It’s all fine now!”

It's all fine now!

“I started to feel tired all the time, I had afternoon fevers. And then there was coughing, constant coughing, the medicines didn’t help at all. It went on for 2 months before I went to the hospital for diagnosis. They took a chest X-ray and said it showed lung abnormalities. They concluded that I had TB. So I began to take TB medicines. It was easy and I didn’t think much about how taking the medicines would be difficult. All I thought of was that taking the medicines would help me get well again and I was determined to take them as instructed. This would help not only me, but also the community.
But during moments of complete exhaustion, I did feel the heavy toll of the disease on me. My own children took care of me and told me to simply concentrate on my treatment, to focus on eating regular meals and not to worry about anything else. Yet I worried. I worried that if I didn’t complete my treatment, TB will continue to spread to others in the community, to my family and my two grandchildren. I thought of my grandchildren first – they were my motivation to compete treatment.
I also worried for people outside my family. Before I completed treatment in February, I was invited to a dinner party, but I declined the invitation. It was me who felt like I should refrain from regular contact because I didn’t want people to be at risk of infection, not my friends.
There are things that I do appreciate from the ZTV project, such as the fact that Ms. Luong paid me frequent visits to ask me about my health and to provide me with advice and encouragement. I really appreciated that. I felt personally cared for. That’s a great benefit of the ZTV project.
Now that I am cured of TB, I want to say thanks to everyone who helped me through the treatment process. I want to thank my family, the community, and the project for providing me with so much support. I hope the project will continue support many more patients with TB like myself. The more TB patients we support, the sooner we can stop TB in the community. I recently went in for a health check – everything was fine. It’s all fine now!”

Desire a full recovery more than anything

“This is the second time I have been treated for tuberculosis. Compared to the previous one, the symptoms this time are not obvious: cough and back pain. I visited many doctors in the local clinics, but their therapy didn’t help ameliorate my pain. I found a tumor located in the back a few weeks later and it became bigger and bigger day by day. I didn’t think that I would had a relapse of tuberculosis until I went to visit doctor at Pham Ngoc Thach Lung Hospital. My current condition accompanied a relapse pulmonary tuberculosis with the spinal tuberculosis. Now I am receiving treatment for Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR). I suffer from the side effects of drugs: nausea, skin lesions, and hearing loss at the time I take medicine. That is why medicine has become an obsession for me. I also feel breathless and fatigue by a little physical exertion. I quit my job as a security guard since I had a relapse TB because I don’t feel well enough to do anything. I am just sitting around my room due in part to my physical weakness, another reason from discrimination from surrounding people. Only persons without knowing my condition talk to me while some others, even my family members, are afraid of touching and talking to me. They are afraid of disease transmission. This is the reason I isolate myself and don’t want to talk anyone.

The worst thing is that my wife is also receiving treatment for MDR-TB as well. Her condition is worse than mine. We are living on the deepest sympathy from our family members, catholic charities and PROPER CARE program. Not only financial support, they help build spiritual strength to overcome these difficulties we are facing. I have 2 children: my little son is looked after by my parents, and my daughter who is staying with us goes to school without any strings attached. I am grateful for their consideration.

I hope my wife and me to get a full recovery after our therapy, which is my desire more than anything. I plan to look for the job after my successfully treatment to support my family in the future. Also, I wish I have the amount of money for a surgery to remove the tumor in my back.”

Don’t be shy. If we are sick, we should get treatment

That is what Mr. Nghia shared with us after completing his treatment and beating his battle with TB in April 2020.

In the beginning of 2019, Mr. Nghia wasn’t feeling well and decided to visit a private clinic for a health examination. After obtaining a chest X-ray, the doctor advised him to visit a specialized TB medical facility. However, traveling to the facility was a big challenge for him, and he remained undiagnosed until a mobile chest X-ray event run by FIT was held at his local Commune Health Station. He was invited to attend and received a second chest X-ray and a GeneXpert test. Mr. Nghia was diagnosed with TB.

A District TB Unit staff member quickly jumped to action by informing Mr. Nghia of his diagnosis and instructed him to register for a free 6-month TB treatment program through the Viet Nam National TB Program. He was also referred to the Commune Health Station where he could receive TB care and treatment monitoring.

Mr. Nghia expressed that he faced some difficulties when he had to go to work, but needed to adhere to his treatment and obtain supervision from the Commune Health Station staff. He did his best to balance both priorities of being cured of TB and finishing his work in the office. He needed to follow a strict treatment regimen and visited the Commune Health Station every 2 days for to ensure he was fully adhering to his treatment. Due to this level of support and care, Mr. Nghia soon felt better.

Mr. Nghia’s family played an important role in facilitating his treatment completion. He currently lives with his wife and his 3-year-old son. His wife and son always encouraged him to take the correct dose of his medication at the right time, and reminded him of his appointments. During the first 2 months of Mr. Nghia’s supervised treatment, he limited his contact with his family as much as possible, but his family was always by his side in supporting his fight against TB.

Mr. Nghia feels extremely lucky that he had access to the FIT mobile chest X-ray event and was able to be swiftly diagnosed and linked to treatment. During the last 6 months if his treatment, he received financial support from the Social Support Program through Erase TB to assist him with the economic burdens of living with TB. The financial stipend helped him afford more nutritious food to bolster his recovery. FIT staff also called him to check on his health and gave him advice throughout his treatment. All these factors greatly encouraged him to continue his treatment, despite the difficulties.

According to a now TB-free Mr. Nghia, TB should not be stigmatized, and people with TB can be cured. He realizes many people do not get treatment because they feel insecure and are afraid of how they will be viewed by others. As a TB patient who has just finished his treatment, he wants to send an important message to others who are wary of seeking care.

Mr. Nghia wants to thank FIT and the Erase TB project for supporting him and his family throughout his treatment. He wishes for the mobile chest X-rays and Social Support Program to reach many more patients so that they can be supported as well.