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Prateek Garg: Brain TB Helped Me Discover the Power of my Mind

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By Prateek Garg

Thanks to Survivors Against TB for sharing this story

Prateek Garg

As a young, ambitious man, my hectic life revolved around studies and classes. Until Tuberculosis (TB) brought it to a halt.

It was June of 2019, I had a schedule full of studying, classes and projects and was living alone in a city that was not my own. I was looking forward to pursuing my passion and completing my MBA degree. It was at this time that I caught a mild fever that lasted for 15-20 days. I decided to get it checked by a doctor, was diagnosed with typhoid, and was prescribed medicines accordingly, along with ample rest. My typhoid medications went on for about a month yet led to no improvement in my health.

It was August now and the burden of studies just kept increasing. In the first week of August, my health got worse. My diet was reduced to virtually nothing, and in addition, I was continuously vomiting. I went to a neighbourhood doctor in Gurugram, who suspected that I might have TB and told me to get a chest X-ray. The X-ray was clear and I was told that I need not worry about TB. Yet, it was getting tougher to manage my health and studies together. So, I decided to go back to Lucknow, my hometown. When my family saw my condition, they got extremely worried and immediately took me to our family doctor. On 14th of August, I was admitted to Ojha Hospital in Allahabad. The doctors there put me on Glucose Intravenous Infusion. In the evening of the day I was admitted to the hospital, I started feeling a little better. In the same hospital, I also got my mantoux test - a skin test that is used to detect infection by the TB bacteria- done, and it too, came out clear.

I was recovering, and was supposed to be discharged on 15th August. However, on the morning of the very same day I became unconscious and was behaving violently in my unconscious state. I woke up on 16th August to find myself in a different hospital, and was told that the doctors suggested that I be brought to Sahara Hospital in Lucknow for better treatment.

My family did not tell me what was going on and neither did the doctors, until 22nd August, the day I was discharged from the hospital – when my doctor told me that my MRI and other tests led to the diagnosis of brain TB, technically known as Tuberculosis meningitis – a form of extra-pulmonary TB.

My family had decided to not tell me earlier since they were scared that I wouldn’t handle the news well. The doctor, before discharging me, said that I need not be scared as I will recover well if I take care of myself. He told me to undertake all necessary precautions, and not leave the medication because if a relapse happens, the treatment will be tougher.

I was extremely scared and also worried – I had taken a loan to pursue my MBA, and didn’t know what to do and how to go back to my studies. The doctor told me that I could continue my studies if I ate well and took no stress. Stress, however, is a free gift and friend that comes alongside an MBA course. So, I decided to talk to the college administration, who were extremely understanding and told me to take a gap year and then continue my education after I got better. And that is what I decided to do.

What was the scariest part of my TB journey? The side effects that came with the treatment. I knew nothing about them. Kanamycin, a medication that I was prescribed, for example, can lead to side effects like partial hearing loss, possible medication side effects also include a deep impact on one’s mental health. Even the thought of such side effects was scary, but this fear couldn’t stop me from continuing the fight against TB and living my life on my own terms. After two hard months, I was back to fighting TB with the same force and grit. My treatment led to major weight loss and weakness – going from one room to the other in the house seemed like the most difficult task. In August 2020, I came back to my college and resumed my MBA studies. It was in the month of September in 2020, that I had finally defeated TB.

What helped me? My family played an extremely important role in my fight against TB. They were my support system and pillar of strength, and gave me the power to defeat TB. In the times of Covid-19 they ensured that I did not step out and all my requirements were fulfilled. This journey also taught me how there is an extreme lack of awareness and subsequent stigma, when it comes to TB. Awareness of the general public and also making patients aware about the access to treatment, and the possible side effects is extremely essential.

A lot of people, often unaware about the side effects, end up becoming a victim of the side effects more than that of TB. If you’re fighting TB – be aware of changes in your body, note down your side effects.

Being informed, aware and staying positive is as important as the medicines you take and will help you in your battle against TB, more than you can imagine!