For Priya Gali, it is yet another exam — after her SSC boards that got over in April this year — to win over multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Despite undergoing heavy medications with a chain of side-effects for the last two years, the 16-year-old passed her SSC exams with 89 percent and a score of 90-plus in three subjects, including her highest in Mathematics at 98.
In April this year, Gali was diagnosed with MDR-TB after a chest X-ray showed the infection spreading in her lungs. MDR-TB bacteria strain is resistant to four of the 16 available TB drugs and takes a minimum of two years to be treated. The diagnosis came during her board exams, two months after a private doctor told her that she had been cured. She again started her treatment at civic-run Sewri TB hospital from April 13, immediately after her exams got over.p
“While writing exams for three hours at a stretch, my legs used to pain. Several times, coughing fits used to start. I used to gulp water and continue writing,” said Gali. While she was able to finish most of her papers, she could not complete the English and Marathi paper as her coughing fits continued, throughout the exam hour.
Gali first started taking anti-TB drugs in 2013 when she was diagnosed with the air-borne infection at a private clinic near her house in Pratiksha Nagar, Sion. After a two-year course, the private doctor told her that she was cured of TB. “After a month, she started vomiting. We took her to KEM hospital where MDR-TB was diagnosed,” Manohar Gali, her father, said.
Gali, a student of Andhra Education Society High School, prepared for her exams despite weaknesses in her limbs and difficulty in walking for longer durations. The heavy medications led to irritation and nausea and her parents claimed she lost weight due to the loss of appetite.
“I used to vomit after eating anything. At one point, I stopped taking the school bus and used to drive in a taxi to school. But I never told my classmates about my illness,” Gali said. The social stigma kept her from wearing masks in classrooms.
Gali will now pursue science, but hopes to get special permission to attend college only twice a week. “I need to get cured first,” she says. According to Dr Rajendra Nanavare, medical superintendent at Sewri hospital, Gali is a category IV patient who will need at least six injectible drugs every day. “For six months, injections will be given. If the culture comes negative, it will be continued for 18 more months,” Nanaware said.