Sarah’s Story From Georgia, U.S.A.

“Me?  I have TB? I’m very healthy. 

I’ve never had any major illnesses before, and I didn’t think it could happen to someone like me.”  Sarah, upon hearing her TB diagnosis

sarah_georgiaSarah is a healthy college student.  But when she was 16 years old in 2012, she was diagnosed with ocular tuberculosis (TB).  TB is often found in the lungs, but for Sarah TB had attacked her retina.  Because there is little research on the treatment of ocular TB, Sarah had to take more TB medication and for a longer period of time than other TB patients.  “I was very scared of pills, so when my doctor told me I had to take 9 pills every day, it would take me a half an hour. Eventually I became a pro at it.”  She had eye surgery to repair her retina. “After my surgery, I was in a lot of pain, because it was a major surgery. Then taking all those pills, I had abdominal pain too.  Just a lot of pain.”

Sarah didn’t want to tell her friends and family, especially her grandfather, that she had TB because she didn’t want to worry them, or be treated differently.  Once she did tell her grandfather, she realized, “He was still my best friend, my rock, my biggest supporter.  He’s my everything.”   He told her he wanted her to be like a one-tusked elephant, a metaphor for being battle tested; someone who has fought and has come out stronger and wiser, more capable.  “He told me, ‘your battle is TB.  It may be hard now, and you may not think you are ever going to get better, but you will. And when you do, you will realize how capable and strong you really are.’  It is now my motivation to stay strong and to get better and try to do well in school and not let TB affect my performance.”

“My vision, although not perfect because it will never be as good as it once was, it is getting better which makes me happy.”