When Mildred Fernando shared her 10-year struggle with this preventable drug-resistant disease, she gave a face to as many as 9 million people who become sick with it every year.
With an estimated 1.7 million people dying every year, this preventable disease is a plague around the world.
"Looking at Mildred Fernando is seeing a life that was in the balance, a ferocious disease untamed in one hand and a person’s will to live and a collection of old medicine in the other," wrote John Onnelly for Pri.org.
Born in Manila, Philippines, Mildred was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2001 at the age of 19, while she was attending her last semester of college. It wasn't until 3 years later that she was given a sputum test that showed she had contracted the extremely drug-resistant (XDR) form of TB.
After trying the first 9 drugs to treat her disease and 5 failed years of treatment, Mildred's doctor referred her to the Tropical Disease Foundation.
“I relocated with my aunt [to Manila], and I went to the treatment center six days a week to receive treatment,” Mildred said.
She was then put on an 18-month course of treatment whose side-effects left her with hearing loss in her right ear, as well as frequent vomiting and headaches. After describing the side effects as "worse than the disease itself," she made it through the 18-month long treatment, only to discover 6 months later she had relapsed.
“I had to take another 24 months of treatment. My re-treatment ended up being a trial. I had to live in the hospital for six months. They had to install a central catheter into my right arm because one of the TB drugs they’d be giving to me had to be given two times a day, every day, for six months," she said.
6 months into her treatment Mildred underwent surgery to have the upper right portion of her lung removed.
She was declared cured in 2011, a full 10 years after her initial diagnosis.
TB has plagued the Fernando family with both her sisters contracting the disease. Mildred's father passed away in 2003 from multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB, meaning that her strain of TB was likely drug-resistant from the start.
She now works an an accountant for Management Sciences for Health, helping to manage their TB treatment programs.
“It’s only now that I am starting to live,” she said. “I just want to enjoy life, enjoy my work, and enjoy my family. There’s no need to hurry.”