Childhood TB: She’s a Winner!

As a single mother of four, Blessing Ihunwo wasn’t too worried when her four year old daughter Winner fell while playing with her sister and developed a lump on her back. It was nothing strange, just a bump…or so she thought. She did, however, become very concerned when the swelling became very painful, increased in size and Winner became unable to move her limbs or walk properly. She decided to take Winner to traditional healers, where she eventually ran out of money chasing after their prescriptions. Winner even sustained scars on her back swelling from “scarification treatment” carried out on her! At her wits end, Blessing sought spiritual help with the Catholic Women’s Association at her church. It was there that Blessing was advised to seek medical help and she was given some charity donations to go to the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH).

At the UPTH, Winner was subsequently referred to the Chest Clinic which is a designated DOT (Directly Observed Treatment) Facility for administering TB treatment; here she was spotted by the USAID funded Challenge TB Nigeria team who were conducting their monthly supportive-supervision visit. The Challenge TB appointed Paediatrician immediately recognized the swelling as a symptom of childhood tuberculosis (TB). Children are especially prone to spinal TB, which when not treated can lead to a collapse in the vertebrae and cause paralysis in one or both legs. The Paediatrician’s TB diagnosis was confirmed with a chest X-ray and Winner was immediately started on anti-TB treatment.

After less than two months, Winner was already showing signs of improvement, she no longer felt pain in her back and was able to walk, run and play again. The swelling had also reduced in size and the sideways curving of her spine (scoliosis) had completely disappeared.

In accordance with Challenge TB’s goals, Winner’s family were educated about TB, how it is transmitted and how to implement infection control measures in the home. They were counseled on how to help her adhere to and complete the 12-months of treatment. Members of Winner’s family and people who have been in close contact with her have also been traced and tested for TB, though none were found to be infected. Thanks to Challenge TB’s investments in improving the healthcare system in Nigeria, Winner is now well on the way to recovery. After five months of treatment she is still monitored closely and receives Orthopaedic care alongside her TB treatment.

This story is from the USAID funded Challenge TB project lead by KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation.

KNCV has been fighting TB since its establishment in 1903. Over the past 117 years, the organization has acquired indispensable knowledge and experience in the field of effective TB control, resulting in pre-elimination in the Netherlands and significant contributions to global evidence generation, policy development and TB program implementation worldwide.

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Tuberculosis is still one of the major causes of preventable death in the world and claims over 4000 lives a day, leading to over 1,5 million deaths a year.

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