Eliminate the TB Scourge

Cape Town — IT’S 1 a.m. A young mother approaches me during my hospital shift. She asks if her 2-year-old son will survive the night. He has been given a diagnosis of severe TB tuberculous meningitis, months after her husband was found to have drug-resistant TB. We suspect the child acquired the infection from his father.

The mother was tormented by guilt and worried about her child’s future. The disease usually affects the lungs, but it can also strike the brain, kidneys and other parts of the body. How do I tell the mother that the fluid in her baby’s brain is terribly elevated and we need to drill holes into his skull to release the pressure? How do I tell her that, if he survives, he will probably have some brain damage and that the prospects that he’ll be able to lead an independent life are questionable?

For me, these moments are both a harsh reality and all too personal.

Read the rest of this New York Times Oped, by Dr. Uvistra Naidoo, here.

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