Simon – Namibia

When he was 12 years old, Simon’s mother took him to see a private doctor for a persistent cough. The doctor prescribed antibiotics for him and when he did not get better, the doctor prescribed another course of antibiotics. Still, Simon did not respond. The mother took him back and he started a third course of antibiotics. Simon’s health continued to deteriorate, so his mother requested a TB test. She had been treated for TB in 2002. The test confirmed Simon’s mother’s fear; he had TB.

By the time Simon was diagnosed with TB, protracted and consistent use of medical aid and insurance had depleted Simon’s benefits. Simon’s mother had no choice but to approach the public health sector to obtain TB treatment for Simon. Based on the positive result of the TB test administered by Simon’s private practitioner, Simon was initiated on TB treatment at his first visit with the doctor at the public clinic. At that same visit, DST was ordered on Simon’s sputum.

When DST results came back after two weeks, they showed resistance to all first-line TB medicines except ethambutol. Simon was diagnosed with MDR-TB. Given Simon’s deteriorating clinical condition, treatment for MDR-TB was initiated soon after the DST results were received. In addition to the DST, Simon, with his mother’s consent, was tested and found to have HIV. His mother, who also had a persistent cough, provided a sputum sample, which tested positive for TB. It was later discovered that Simon’s mother had not completed her prior course of TB treatment in 2002. A DST result showed that Simon’s mother also had MDR-TB. Simon and his mother were now both being treated for MDR-TB.

Simon is still hospitalized and receiving treatment. He cannot walk or even sit up on his own. He has not spoken for many weeks and is rapidly deteriorating. Sores in his throat make it too painful to swallow his TB medications. As a result, Simon’s mother watches her 13-year-old son die a little more each day and asks, “Is there no other way to help my child than giving him pills that he cannot swallow?”

Story Collected by: Penny Uukunde, Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS), National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program (NTLP), Namibia; Pinehas Iiping, Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS), Namibia