"It all started in December 2014. I had just qualified for CSIR NET, with a fantastic rank. He was certain of a bright and exciting future. "

Diptendu Bhattacharya Educator, MDR TB Survivor

It all started in December 2014. I had just qualified for CSIR NET, with a fantastic rank. He was certain of a bright and exciting future. I noticed some dark spots on my tongue and when I rinsed my mouth and spat the water out- it was red. I ignored it. Next evening, I had a spurt of cough and spat out blood again.

I took admission to IIT Kharagpur. I was attending classes and simultaneously preparing for exams. My cough, however, persisted. My colleagues and lab-mates repeatedly asked me why I looked sick.

I had a great excuse- I was working so hard. I was always breathless, but I kept ignoring it. I started to feel chilly, in the middle of a hot summer. On the last day of my exam, I finally visited an in-house hospital. There, the physician gave me medicines for my fever and cough and asked me to report after two days with a chest X-Ray and other tests. When I revisited the hospital, my medication was changed. I was unsure about my treatment so I came back home and visited a local private doctor. He changed my medicines again. Yet, no one suspected TB.

This time I consulted with my family physician. My physician seemed worried and referred me to a chest specialist. I was finally diagnosed with TB and began my first line treatment.

Life became all about managing the treatment. I remained at home and spent days reading Harry Potter and listening to music. I visited the DOTS centre every alternate day. In those days, the patient had to visit the centre to consume medicines under supervision. Yet, my condition deteriorated. Vomiting became frequent and I was losing appetite.. In June 2015, as my first line treatment ended, and I was hopeful that I would be cured and return to academic life in Kharagpur.

The reports came in and I was diagnosed with- Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR TB), which meant that I had a more dangerous form of TB and needed to be treated for 2 more years.

If fighting MDR TB was hard the stigma made it harder although I experienced very little of it. The doctor wouldn’t enter my room and was even sarcastic in his remarks. He kept saying that I had only 10% chance of survival. The hospital itself looked like an unkempt forest.

As part of the MDR TB treatment regimen, I was prescribed a series of injections. On the day, I took the first I couldn’t raise my hand beyond the shoulder level. It was that painful. Soon, I had to buy the injections, commercially. The costs made it difficult but so did the anxiety of missing treatment.

I also had severe side effects. My ears were getting dry, my taste buds got funny, and my eyesight and handwriting went haywire. Eventually the treatment worked. It was finally in December, 2015, one whole year after the initial diagnosis that my tests became TB negative.

In January 2016, I tried to resume my education but couldn’t due to issues with treatment and other challenges So, I began teaching again. I renewed some old relationships. I also met an amazing woman and fell in love. I started to value life over material things. And I realised how fortunate I was to be here, alive. I believe, TB left me saner, wiser and better. With love and with hope