While fishing in Lake Victoria one day, Victor Odhiambo began experiencing chest pain and a persistent cough. He associated this to the cold weather at the lake and went on with his work with the hope that the symptoms would soon clear.
However, his condition worsened with each passing day forcing him to cut short his two-week fishing plan and come back to the shore to seek medical attention.
“Immediately I arrived at the shore, I visited a chemist and bought over the counter medicines. The chest pain and the cough reduced after taking the medication but reoccurred once the dosage was over,” Victor recalls.
He visited the chemist again and requested for more packs of the medicines to sustain him as he went back to fishing to feed his young family.
“I took the over the counter medication for almost a year to relieve the chest pain and coughing that kept recurring once the medicine was out of my system. Once the medicine was over, I would go for a refill to at least push me through,” he opens up.
One day while at the Mvita Beach preparing to go for fishing, Victor attended a USAID TB ARC II supported TB screening and testing community outreach, held in collaboration with the National TB Program and Homabay County.
“There was a health talk on the symptoms of TB and the importance of screening and testing. They told us if you are having weight loss, fatigue, night sweats, lack of appetite, cough of any duration, chest pains to go for screening which they were offering free of charge. I decided to give it a try at least to minimise the pain I was going through,” Victor says.
Upon screening, Victor turned out presumptive for TB and was requested to take a TB test which involved putting his sputum in a tube.
“Once I gave them the tube with the sputum, they told me they would call me to give me the tests results. A few days later, they called requesting that I go to the health facility,” Victor shares.
Victor’s sputum test with a GeneXpert machine had confirmed that he had tuberculosis. When he got to the facility, he was informed that he had TB, counselled, and immediately initiated on treatment.
“When I was told I had TB, I got shocked as I knew the disease kills. I was worried of dying and leaving my family alone as I am the bread winner. The doctor reassured me that if I take the medication as instructed, I would get completely cured as TB is a treatable and curable disease. He also told me that I would take the medicine for six months while having clinical reviews in between the months,” Victor says.
He adds, “Since I began taking the medication, I have really improved. The coughing has reduced as well as the chest pains and the night sweats are completely gone. I feel more energetic while going about my work.”
To ensure that he doesn’t miss his medication Victor shares that, “I carry my medicines in the boat and take them as instructed since sometimes we go off the shore for more than three days.”
Due to the nature of their work that requires regular travel, Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya USAID TB ARC II activity in collaboration with the National TB Program and Homabay County has linked fishermen TB patients, like Victor, to various facilities to be enable them pick their refills when need be.
“I usually come for refills every two weeks. If the refill day finds me in the lake, I usually present my clinic card at the nearest health facility which is mostly in an island and I am given the medicines as required,” Victor shares.
Just like the rest of the world, Kenya continues to battle with COVID-19 pandemic. There has been reported reduction in the number of people visiting health facilities, for among others, TB diagnosis whose symptoms mimic those of COVID-19. This could lead to an increase in community spread as well disease progression among the affected but not on medication. To minimise this, since the onset of COVID-19 USAID TB ARC II in collaboration with the National TB Program and various county governments have accelerated community outreach missions in hotspot areas to finding missing cases like Victor and initiate them on treatment.