Tuberculosis and Diabetes at 21 years old

‘’I used to love playing football and going to school but my condition no longer allows me to do these things. I also have to be specific about what I eat and this can be expensive.’’

Umoru is 21 years old and is currently being treated in the Isolation Ward at Magbenteh Community Hospital, having been admitted for the past 1 month. Umoru has tuberculosis, as well as diabetes. His condition is extremely sensitive.

Tuberculosis patients are required to eat a lot, to provide energy, especially carbohydrates. However, with his diabetic condition he is unable to eat starch. This leaves him with limited options as proteins can be very expensive.

Umuru comes from a village call Berry Junction, approximately 120 kilometres from Magbenteh Community Hospital, with a transport fare of 15,000 Leones ($1.80). “I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in August 2014. My mother wasn’t feeling well so I took her to a local health clinic. The acting physician wanted to know if the condition was hereditary as my mother was showing symptoms of diabetes. I was diagnosed as positive and my mother negative.”

Umuru’s family live together in one house. He was first diagnosed with tuberculosis in May 2018. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation for Sierra Leone provide free medication for TB patients, the drugs however are difficult to take without the correct diet. Umuru explains that his elder sister is the only family member working, selling nuts. He has two younger siblings and his father is almost 70 years old. “I recently lost my mother to kidney failure at the beginning of 2018, she was the breadwinner of our family. It is only my sister and I who can look after my family but I am too sick to leave the hospital. I don’t know what will happen because my family and I don’t even have enough money to eat.”

Tuberculosis is a communicable disease which affects the pulmonary system. It can affect anyone that is exposed to breathing-in infected air. The condition requires a strict medical schedule with most patients taking treatment between 6 months to 1 year. TB cases in Sierra Leone are rising drastically, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating the prevalence of the disease at 574 cases per 100,000 members of the population in 2017, compared with 304 cases per 100,000 members of the population in 2016.

Poverty is a major factor of TB, with a weakened immune system and a lack of access to basic health services. Since the 1980s, the number of cases of tuberculosis has increased dramatically because of the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Infection with HIV suppresses the immune system, making it difficult for the body to control TB bacteria. As a result, people with HIV are many times more likely to get TB and to progress from latent to active disease than are people who aren’t HIV positive.

Although tuberculosis is contagious, it’s not easy to catch. You’re much more likely to get tuberculosis from someone you live with or work with than from a stranger.

Magbenteh Community Hospital is trying its best to support patients with TB. Cases such as Umuru’s are extremely difficult, especially in terms of his financial situation and feeding. We pray for a successful outcome, to ensure Umuru and his family a healthy future.