China / Society

The disease that changed my life forever

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-03-24 07:03

"Yan Xia" (an online name meaning "Hot Summer"), a 25-year-old migrant worker.

I was diagnosed with tuberculosis in Nov 2012, after a CT scan at a large hospital in Jinan, Shandong province, after I coughed up blood. I had also coughed up blood when I was working at a construction site a few days earlier, but I didn't pay any attention.

After the test results came though, the doctor gave me a mask and told me to wear it. He didn't give me a diagnosis, though. He just told me to go to a nearby hospital that specialized in treating lung diseases. I had no idea what was happening, and was very confused in the ambulance he'd arranged to take me to the hospital.

At the hospital, I was informed that I had tuberculosis. I stayed there for more than a month until my doctor told me the disease was largely under control and no longer infectious.

I quit the hospital because the medical fees were too high for me. I have no medical insurance and I had to pay almost 1,000 yuan ($161) a day during the first few days, but at that time I could only earn about 3,000 yuan a month working at the construction site. The doctor who treated me said very little and rarely answered my questions, so I had to rely the Internet almost entirely to search for information about the disease.

Later, I realized that most of the medications I had received from the doctor, such as nutritional solutions, were unnecessary, but they cost far more than the four essential TB drugs.

After leaving the hospital I continued to take the TB drugs, which cost a total of about 100 yuan a month. I also took several other drugs to minimize the harm to my liver caused by the tuberculosis drugs.

I stopped taking the drugs early last year after tests showed I was cured, but I'll go to the hospital for a check every year to ensure the disease doesn't reoccur.

In total, I spent about 30,000 yuan to cure the disease, including 10,000 yuan I borrowed from friends.

I quit my job at the construction site after being diagnosed, and in the past two years I have done a number of various less-strenuous jobs, such as handing out ad pamphlets.

In retrospect, I realize that I caught the disease from one of my friends, who was also a migrant worker. At the time, he didn't know he had the disease, either. He was also cured, eventually.

There were other reasons behind my infection, such as the heavy work at the construction site, excessive smoking, and irregular meals. My previous employer didn't provide annual checkups like some other companies do, otherwise I might have detected the disease earlier.

I think I'm lucky compared with patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which is very difficult to cure.

My experiences changed me a lot. I remember a doctor called Fan at the hospital that was very nice to me and even gave me his phone number, but some of the nurses were scared when they gave me injections. That hurt a lot. I've grown used to living and working on my own, and I'm afraid to let other people know I had the disease.

Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital I was offered a job. I didn't accept it because I had to take a physical checkup before starting, and I was afraid the company would reject me if they discovered that I was once a tuberculosis patient.

No one around me knows I had TB. I only told my grandma in my home village about it. My parents are divorced and I haven't been in touch with them for a long time.

My experiences also changed me for the better. I now care much more about my health, and I have quit smoking. I've also started working on small projects, such as installing outdoor advertising hoardings, and I can earn more than when I worked at the construction site.

Right now, I want to make more money so I will never live in fear of falling sick again, and I won't have to worry about the medical bills if I'm hospitalized.

"Yan Xia" spoke with Wang Xiaodong.

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