, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – “I cannot feel sorry for myself; sorry never felt sorry for me.”
Eddie Chichi, 36, battled Tuberculosis (TB) for 15 years but soon after overcoming it, fate hit him with lung failure.
Chichi used to be a DJ, an animator and a deep sea diving instructor. His work took him for performances to Italy on several occasions.
His career came to an abrupt end in 1999 when medical tests confirmed that he had TB after three years of a heavy eccentric cough.
“Since 1996, I moved from clinic to clinic; I was given strong antibiotics. I got injections, but the cough was still there,” the father of two recalls the beginning of his long journey of an unrelenting disease.
“My friends advised me to chew miraa, take herbal medication, to go to witch doctors, to take shots of vodkas, but the cough remained!”
Eventually, after losing substantial weight and when he started complaining of sweating at night, a medical test showed that he had TB.
He was then placed under treatment. “I used to get 60 injections every week and many tablets. After eight months I went for a test again and I still had TB!”
“I was weak. I moved from Mombasa to Voi to live with my grandmother because people started gossiping that I had HIV,” Chichi sadly recounts.
Two eight-month treatment regimes later, and results showed the medicine wasn’t working.
In 2004, Chichi was diagnosed with Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB but a lack of funds caused him to delay treatment.
“The treatment at the time was costing Sh300,000. I used to pay Sh75,000 to Kenyatta National Hospital every month since the drugs had to be imported from another country. I had to organise concerts with renowned Kenyan musicians for me to raise the money,” he explains.
According to the AIDS NGO Consortium (KANCO) Senior TB Advocacy Manager Evaline Kibuchi, there are 600 cases of Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR TB) in Kenya, which is quite expensive to treat.
MDR TB occurs after a patient develops resistance to first line TB treatment. This requires that the patient gets a different combination of drugs to treat the MDR TB.
She explains that patients with TB for the first time require treatment for six months.
Patients with MDR require two years of treatment, with daily medication.
Chichi, who once weighed a healthy 87 kilos had lost it to a mere 37 kilos due to the malaise.
“The treatment for MDR TB has many side effects: one can become blind, deaf, and the drugs make you crazy. I had to cope with this situation. There was this power of death. I had no strength but only hope that kept me alive, I could not be here now,” he asserts.
“It was 11 months of injections every single day. I had no voice. I could not even speak sometimes. I used to take 29 tablets in the morning and nine tablets at night.”
And then in April 2011, Chichi received the best news of his life. He had been cured of the MDR TB!
“On 7th April, I graduated because it felt like being in a university for many years. I was declared MDR free,” he says with a smile on his face.
But barely two months after the good news, Chichi’s struggle for good health suffered yet another life threatening problem; his left lung completely collapsed.
And worse still, doctors have explained to him that it cannot be revived.
The other lung, is also working at 46 percent of its capacity.
“The doctors have told me nothing can be done, so I am just here ensuring I stay in a clean environment and breathe clean air, but I cannot give up,” Chichi says, “I can compare myself to the Baobab tree, even if you shake it, it doesn’t move, that is me even with this disease.”
His moving words inspired by the spirit of determination and courage are unshakable as he moves around Nairobi’s Kangemi area to inspire and help people with long-term illnesses cope with the pain of sickness.
“I use my sickness as strength. I give hope to people with TB. I go to churches and tell them not to give up,” Chichi says.