By: Vanessa Niken (Communications Intern - World Vision PNG)
As a TB treatment supporter, our role is to take care and love our patients, smiles Musato.
Musato Tuwalo is a success story of the efforts of many who work tirelessly to help fight TB in PNG, She was once a TB patient who was cured and now works as a TB treatment Supporter with World Vision in Daru, Western Province, Papua New Guinea.
Musato underwent 21 months of TB Treatment herself as a TB patient. Her struggle with TB inspires her to help other TB patients get cured and live healthy lives. She now works as a TB Treatment Supporter with World Vision in Daru, Papua New Guinea. (Photo: Nelson Kairi/WorldVisionPNG)
Daru is one of the few Torres Strait islands which is situated near mainland Australia and has put PNG in the global spotlight because of its high incidence of TB infection.
A mother to four children, Musato has a 24 year old daughter who is married and has a child. Her three other children are all teenagers, one is now 18 years old another is 15 and her youngest is 9 year old boy who was seven years old when Musato fell sick with Tuberculosis (TB). All three are living with relatives. She and her husband, a policeman live alone in Daru.
Musato is committed to her work as a TB Treatment Supporter to help TB patients recieve their daily treatment by visiting them in thier homes and being present at work in her designated TB Treatment site but she is also a mother and a wife who has her daily motherly duties of doing laundry, cleaning around her home and cooking for her and her husband.(Photo: Nelson Kairi/World VisionPNG)
To protect her youngest child from TB, she sent him to her mother knowing the struggles she would face looking after a child while undergoing treatment. Her small boy has since been living with his grandmother.
“Even before I had TB, I was already aware that TB is preventable and curable,” she says.
She adds,“A group of people would go around the whole town to do public awareness. That’s when I learned about the signs and symptoms of TB. The group would also encourage people to come for check-up if they have signs and symptoms of TB".
On December 2016, Musato went for a checkup after she noticed that she was coughing for more than three weeks, not eating properly and losing a lot of weight. When she went for check-up at the hospital, the staff gave her a sputum-cup to produce her sputum in which she did and returned it the other day. After a week the result came and she learned that she had TB.
She says, “When I went to get my result, the hospital staff told me that I was positive for multidrug-resistant TB (MDRTB). I wasn’t scared. I knew that TB was a curable disease. I told the staff that I wanted to be admitted in the ward as I didn’t want to pass on my sickness to my husband and my children."
Musato took her medicine every day until she completed 21 full months of treatment.
She adds, “I was at the end of my TB treatment when I heard about some job vacancies with World Vision’s TB Project here in Daru".
The pain and suffering that she went through inspired her to care for others who are also sick. She observed patients who came the remote parts of South-Fly District and were residing on the Island and this drove her to help them. There were ten vacancies for TB treatment supporters and Musato applied with her grade 10 certificate.
She says, “There were 62 of us who applied and 10 of us were selected. I was the tenth who got selected. Then we were trained for a week. Straight away we started doing our job".
TB Treatment supporters start work at 7am. Living quite a distance from the World Vision TB treatment site, Musato doesn't mind walking. In Daru, there are very few public motor vehicles. Sometimes, she gets lucky and the World Vision vehicle passes her by chance, she’d get on to the vehicle. Despite the challenge, Musato still attends work everyday. (Photo: Nelson Kairi/World VisionPNG)
World Vision is currently implementing the Stop TB in Western Province Project Phase 2, in partnership with the Western Province Health Office, National Department of Health and Burnett Institute, with support from the Papua New Guinea and Australia Partnership.
We have five TB outreach treatment sites located around Daru to make sure that much needed TB treatment services are available to communities every day. We have trained several treatment supporters like Musato and we also provide daily lunch as a nutritional supplement for patients undergoing treatment.
Kitchen hands prepare tasty, nutricious meals for TB patients each day to support nutrition of patients taking TB medication everyday. An estimated 100 - 250 patients come each day to recieve their treatment as well as their lunch packs from World Vision staff at the five designated TB Treatment sites around Daru Island. Musato works at the main site which is located at World Vision PNG's office in Daru. (Photo: Nelson Kairi/World VisionPNG)
A TB treatment supporter is trained on the World Health Organization-approved TB treatment protocol called “directly observed treatment, short course” or DOTS.
On a given day, a treatment supporter would administer DOTS to around 10 patients. If most treatment supporters are on duty, they share the number of patients so each treatment supporter is able to treat four patients each in a day.
Patients with multi-drug resistant TB (MDRTB), a form of TB which takes longer to cure compared to the normal strain of TB are treated separately from other TB patients. Like all other TB treatment supporters, Musato was trained by World Vision to treat all types of TB patients, including those with MDRTB.
Musato says,“At 11 o’clock, we get up from where we are sitting and start walking to the homes of our patients who missed their treatment for the day. We even go to the workplaces of our patients, just so they won’t miss their medication".
She has a patient who works in a shop so she treats her patient inside the shop. She recalled that when she was sick with TB, health staff and volunteers would come and visit her at home.
Since Musato started as a treatment supporter and despite her personal struggles of attending to her and her family’s day to day needs, she pushes on with her work. She never stops from caring for her patients. Sometimes Musato would miss breakfast because the early part of her day is dedicated to her patients.
She says,“Sometimes when I wake up late, I don’t have my breakfast, and my husband too is a working class person so both of us get on early in the morning then we walk down and later have our lunch".
TB Treatment supporters start work at 7am. Living quite a distance from the World Vision TB treatment sites, Musato does not mind walking. In Daru, there are very few public motor vehicles. Sometimes, she gets lucky and the World Vision vehicle passes her by chance, she’d get on to the vehicle. Despite the challenge, Musato still attends work everyday.
She takes her lunch break at 12 noon and comes back in at 1pm and ends at 2pm. After working hours she would normally go to town and look for food for afternoon dinner and then walk the distance back home. At home, she has dishes to do, laundry and other cleaning chores in and around her home.
Regardless of how busy she is, it is a must that she gets up in the morning and goes to work. She spends most of her time with patients because to her, it is important that patients receive treatment daily as she knows how important it is - she was once a TB patient herself.
She says, “There are some ups and downs in doing this kind of work, but I do enjoy and love the work that I’m doing. Sometimes patients get hard on us, but I stay committed to my work. We can’t talk back, or get angry with them. We are here to love them and care for them".
Musato knows that her experience can inspire others because this is dealing with life and death. That is why she makes sure that patients do not miss any dose. Patients must take their daily medicication until they are cured so that in the end, the patients can be happy, continue to live and support their families.
With the help of Musato and other TB treatment supporters, as well as all key players in the TB Project, the percentage of TB patients on the island who are not completing their treatment has dropped from 30 percent in 2012 to 1.5 percent in 2017.
She says, “My hope is that people who got cured of TB join hands and work together to support people who are still struggling with completing their TB medication. This way, we can end TB together".
Featured image: As a TB treatment supporter, our role is to take care of and love our patients says Musato, a former TB patient who now works as a TB treatment supporter with World Vision in Daru, Western Province, Papua New Guinea.