Feature story |

A Boy's Family Joins MSF to Help Him Fight TB Meningitis

Photograph by Wendy Marijnissen
Orion (4) is one of MSF’s patients in Tajikistan, one of Asia’s poorest countries, where we run a paediatric TB program. MSF Doctor Ioanna Haziri listens to Orion's lungs and breathing during her check-up of the little boy.

The grandfather of 4-year-old Orion holds up a photograph. The picture shows the boy as he was a year ago, in the hospital, in a coma and severely malnourished. Orion has TB meningitis, a disease that leaves many patients with severe neurological damage – if they manage to survive in the first place.

Orion’s family lives near Vose, a city in southern Tajikistan, near the Afghan border. There, in the porch outside their home, he runs around happily, playing with family and friends, smiling, energetic and full of life. His partially paralyzed right leg and hand recall his time in the hospital. When he awoke from his coma, his entire right side was paralyzed. By regularly doing exercises with him, Orions father and grandfather help the small patient regain control of his damaged limbs. MSF doctor Ioanna Haziri: "Orion is a real win. For us, but also for the people here. No one thought he would survive. He was in bad shape. But he’s getting better, a little bit every day."

Orion was hospitalised when the tuberculosis bacteria had spread to his spine. He was lying comatose, severely dehydrated and malnourished. Hospital staff could find no suitable treatment for the boy. MSF, however, called for intensive treatment with antibiotics to fight the infections. 3 months later, Orion had recovered enough to go home.

Orion is still treated with first-line TB drugs. He is still getting all the help he needs from his devoted family. "It can be difficult to have him take his medication," says Orion's grandfather. "If the doctors are here, then he takes them without complaints. But without them, it’s very difficult. He mainly thinks the drugs don’t smell nice. But in the end he always takes his pills."

Orion’s grandfather doesn’t mind his grandson’s reluctance to take the medicine. "A year ago, Orion was so sick and thin, he was basically just a sack of bones. There was no hope. Even when he left the hospital, he could not move or talk. I am very pleased that he has improved so much. And as long as I have my strength, I will continue to take care of Orion. Until he is completely well. I thank God that Orion is back on his feet. And I thank MSF. Because without them, this was not possible."

DEMAND CHANGE: People living with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) & their medical care providers are calling on the international community to address the DR-TB crisis with better treatment and diagnosis, and adequate funding. SUPPORT THEIR CALL TO ACTION SIGN NOW at: www.msfaccess.org/tbmanifesto


A 5-Year-Old Undergoes MDR-TB Treatment in Tajikistan
A Teen Battling XDR-TB in Tajikistan Strives For Better Days
A Young Woman's Perseverance Through MDR-TB