I was just another 20-year old lad – determined, ambitious and working hard to find my place in the rat race. I was training to be a doctor, working the entire day then finishing my internship in the hospital and then studying in my spare time. I was also a fitness freak and gym was my go-to place during lunch time. My life had a purpose and it was filled with hope.
At the peak of my fitness and perhaps the busiest time in my life, I started feeling sick. Every one around me thought I had viral fever and I was prescribed general medicines and blood tests. After two weeks of continued fever, cough and immense weight loss, we decided to go for an X-ray and it was found that I had fluid in my left lung. The doctor told me it was tuberculosis. Nothing was the same after that.
I was started on medication but even after a few months, I wasn’t feeling better. Given my medical background, I knew something was wrong. I persuaded the doctor to get a drug sensitivity test done. Yet, nothing conclusive was found and my treatment continued. I developed high fever again and lost more weight. I could find no explanation for it.
In confusion and exasperation, I pushed my doctor for the left lung sonography to determine the cause for fever. During the sonography, my doctor accidentally coughed and his hand moved to my right lung. It was diagnosed that there was close to 1000cc of fluid in my right lung. I was devastated because now both my lungs were infected.
I lost faith in my doctor and went in for a second opinion. My new doctor advised further tests, especially a culture to diagnose my drug resistance. Tests revealed I was a borderline XDR TB case. I could not believe it. I knew that the success rate of treatment for cases like mine was barely 20 per cent. Also, treatment was long, expensive and came with multiple side effects.
TB was not just a physical battle but a long mental and emotional struggle as well. I was temporarily blind, and lost my hearing, touch and also developed thyroid disorders. My doctor had to change medication to reverse the blindness and hearing loss. And then there was depression and frustration. When I looked around for inspiration or hope, I found none. The TB survivors seemed shrouded in silence.
Faced with mortality and loneliness; somewhere within me came the courage to fight. I decided I am not going to let TB consume my life. As days passed, I pushed myself to get back to work and exercise slowly. I started walking briskly and could soon jog. I would do squats and push-ups but had to do everything in moderation. I was always scared of breathlessness and was following the regime with watchful spacing and continued medication. It was difficult, but I persisted. I forced myself to think of another life- when I would be cured.
I was particularly careful with my nutrition. My diet consisted of a lot of protein including eggs, soya chunks, broccoli, boiled chicken and oats. I balanced this with appropriate calorific intake – including rice and chapatis and vegetables. I made a weekly calendar of food items to ensure I maintained my diet.
Over months of treatment, I felt a lot better. Yet, I wanted to do something to prove that I had defeated TB. With two ‘half lungs’, I decided to run a short marathon- something like this was unheard of. With precise training and nutrition, I ran a 10 km race and finished it under 57 minutes while I was still on active treatment. That day, I mustered the courage to speak about my condition. I realised I wasn’t alone. Since that day, people with various health conditions have been messaging me, asking for guidance and I help them in any way that I can.
Also watch a short film made on Saurabh Rane’s Tuberculosis battle: The Long Run
– Saurabh Rane is a qualified doctor and a survivor of Drug Resistant TB. He is one of the Survivor Advocates leading the campaign Survivors Against TB.
– Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.