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Published: 9 March 2023

Overcoming tuberculosis (TB) one step at a time

TB NursingWojciech Bugajski is beaming at his final appointment after six months of treatment with the TB Nursing Team: “They really care. I’m very happy!”

56-year-old Wojciech starting seeing the TB Nurse Team, after spending five weeks in Darent Valley Hospital following a diagnosis of extensive TB: “I lost more than three stone in weight and I was very weak”, he said.

Treatment for the infection involves taking a cocktail of antibiotics for six months or more, with regular blood tests and x-rays to check how the treatment is working.

Kate Stevens, one of the Specialist TB Nurses supporting him said: “Wojciech has done very well with his treatment. He lost his accommodation during his stay in hospital as he wasn’t able to pay his rent so was sleeping in the park or at a friend’s house. He struggled to understand the daily medication he was meant to take as his English isn’t very good. Living alone without any close friends or family and with all the other issues he was facing, he was at risk of not taking his treatment properly. This would leave him at risk and mean he could be infectious to others.”

TB Nursing TeamTB Nursing Service is a community-based team with eight specialist nurses working across east and north Kent. The service protects those at risk and aims to improve the lives of people living with TB, helping to solve the sort of issues that might prevent someone completing their treatment, which includes homelessness and access to benefits.

Kate and the team worked with Dartford Borough Council to get temporary housing for Wojciech near the hospital, helped him register with a GP and get to the Job Centre, as well as referring him to Porchlight, a charity who were able to support him with his visa application.

Kate also arranged for Wojciech to use a Virtually Observed Therapy (VOT) app with a loaned phone from University College Hospital’s Find and Treat Service. He used this to record himself taking his medication so this could be monitored. This technology provides an efficient and easy way to support patients to take their medication correctly and identity any issues.

Kate said: “Wojciech has done so well, he’s 100 per cent taken his medication correctly and come to see me weekly as well. He’s no longer drinking alcohol, which again is a massive help.”

TB NursingWojciech’s lungs are now clear of the TB infection and he’s gained two-and-a-half stone since starting treatment. He joked: “I’ll have to get some new trousers, they don’t fit so well now.”

Kate’s message to anyone who has a cough that hasn’t gone away for three weeks or more, or who has any of the other symptoms is to get along to your GP for a check-up. She said: “Rates of TB in Kent remain low but they are not going away, so everyone should ‘think TB’.”

March 24 every year is World TB Day. This celebrates the day Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterial cause of tuberculosis. This discovery led the way to diagnosing and curing TB. It still remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of nearly one-and-a-half million people each year, mostly in developing countries.