Talk about double jeopardy.
Sadly, in this country, the rates of HIV and TB co-infection are among the highest in the world.
The vivid reality of that fact was recently brought home for us here at TTL, as we finally determined what has been plaguing Retsepile and hindering his health and recovery.
After being hooked up to life-saving fluids just two weeks ago, he had returned looking a bit better and we had begun feeding him plumpy nut, mixed with porridge to make it easier for him to digest, to continue to improve his weight and health. But like clockwork, he began vomiting and having diarrhea yet again, and his strength rapidly deteriorated once more.
Though we had started him on ARVs for his HIV and were working as diligently as we could to ensure his food intake was on target, there seemed to be an underlying problem that was preventing him from improving.
Under the suggestion of Dr. Chris from Baylor, we took Retsepile back to the hospital, where a chest X-ray finally read correctly showed signs of underlying TB.
Retsepile’s ARVs were stopped, as they weren’t doing him any good – and were in fact weakening him – with the underlying issue unaddressed, and we started him on the first phase of TB treatment.
After spending the required amount of time in the hospital letting the medicines take hold, Retsepile is now back at the safe-home.
He is emaciated. His limbs look like nothing more than twigs with skin draped over them. His face is gaunt. Still he smiles. Still he fights all that is against him. Still he pushes on.
He is now eating well and his vomiting and diarrhea have stopped.
I am crossing my fingers that we have finally nailed the problem on the head, and that Retsepile will at last begin to recover.
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation Touching Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity Touching Tiny Lives (TTL).