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  • Title: Fighting for me
  • Song by: Riley Clemmons
  • Covered by: Maya Daniel

I was about 10 years old when I laid in bed one evening. A few minutes later, I wanted to go to the toilet but I couldn’t. My body just wouldn’t move. Shocked and completely overwhelmed by the situation, I screamed for my father and cried in pain. He came and drove me straight to the emergency room. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong so they sent us home despite the intense pain I was in. They simply sent us home. I no longer understood the world. The pain was excruciating and I was in shock because I could no longer control my body. The mere thought of no longer being able to walk took my breath away. Never before have I felt more fear than at that very moment. I felt that it was irresponsible and negligent of the doctors to send me back home without a thorough check-up, even if it was in the middle of the night. It felt like my pain was not being taken seriously. Like I was faking it. The whole situation completely overwhelmed me and I hated being powerless. Today I believe that it was exactly in that moment that I subconsciously decided never again to be controlled by anyone or anything else ever again. What tore me apart the most was seeing my father so sad and angry – he would have loved to take my pain away but he simply couldn’t. We were both exhausted by the whole situation and all the big feelings. Thankfully, I fell asleep in the car on the way back home.

However, my father was persistent and drove me to our family doctor the following morning. Quickly came the frightening diagnosis: Tuberculosis of the spine. I was immediately admitted to the hospital because if I had stayed one more day without treatment, I would have been paraplegic. My spine was about to fracture and my lungs were full of bacteria that were spreading throughout my body.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB or TBC for short) is a contagious disease caused by bacteria. These mainly affect the lungs. Tuberculosis of the spinal column is caused by the spread of the tuberculosis bacteria in the spinal column. These bacterias are transferred from another source of infection, usually the lungs, via the blood or lymphatic vessels to other regions of the body. This then leads to bone and joint inflammation in one or often several vertebrae. As a result, the bone tissue is increasingly damaged. The vertebra then loses stability and can collapse.

One evening before the incident, I visited a school friend and naturally had to go to the toilet. I will never be completely sure but my line of thinking is that I caught the disease during that visit to the toilet. Since then, I don’t go to any toilet except the toilet in my home. I’d rather hold it in. Therefore, as a way of precaution, I have a drink/s at home and go to the toilet if I need to, before meeting up with friends. When I meet up with other people, to avoid having to use the restroom, I politely refuse any offer of drinks. When I visit someone and it happens that I use their restroom, that’s the biggest sign of trust I can give. The fear of contracting TBC again is simply far too great. That’s why I always make sure that my bathroom is always exceptionally clean because in my head, the bacteria came from a dirty toilet. My host’s bathroom, the workplace or for example the restrooms in restaurants also have to be extremely clean before I can consider using them.

A lengthy process

Suddenly, the happiest child in the world became the saddest. Being separated from my family and not being able to move was the biggest punishment for me. Fortunately, my father was allowed to stay in the room with me until the operation and a short time afterwards. The operation went smoothly but I had to spend almost a year in the hospital, of which six months of that year, I was confined to a bed. Two ribs were removed from the right side of my body. A rectangular plate was then attached to my spine to support it. The bed on which I laid was literally attached to me. I couldn’t leave the bed. It could only be lifted upright bit by bit so that in the end I was able to stand straight again. The reduction of my muscle mass and the loss of my muscular strength were the side effects of my long bed rest. Unfortunately, I can’t remember all the details of how the physiotherapists used the adjustable bed to get me standing upright again. Apparently, after about a week of being confined to bed, you lose about 20-25% of your muscle mass. Again, it takes at least six weeks to rebuild what you’ve lost through regular exercises. For me, that meant 25 weeks of training in hospital until I was able to stand upright and walk on my own again.

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