RESULTS UK’s Executive Director, Aaron Oxley, shares the story of Phumeza Tisile, who defeated XDR-TB after a long and arduous treatment that caused her to lose her hearing. Phumeza has become a powerful advocate within the TB community, fighting to ensure others do not have to endure what she has. Aaron writes here to thank her for sharing her story, and to share how we all can help her to regain her hearing

Phumeza and Aaron in Cape Town in Jan 2014
Phumeza and Aaron in Cape Town in Jan 2014

When I was in South Africa in early 2014 for the Stop TB Board meeting and I learned that Phumeza was going to be there with MSF as they received the Kochon Prize, I knew there was only one person in the room I wanted to speak to that night. I was more than a little star-struck: there was someone who has done something I am very unsure that I’d have the strength to do myself, and turned something so horribly negative into something positive. Rather than just get on with her life, get over TB, and try to forget about it once she was cured, Phumeza has thrown herself right back into the fight to make sure that no-one else has to suffer and struggle as she did.

I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what I went through with drug-resistant TB. The drugs alone are a nightmare; becoming deaf because of a drug’s side effects is life-destroying.
~ Phumeza Tisile, XDR-TB Survivor and Activist

Phumeza has become a prominent TB advocate since beating the disease.
Phumeza has become a prominent TB advocate since beating the disease.

Phumeza Tisile defeated XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis), but the treatment, as it does for so many others, has made her deaf. Now, she now has the chance to receive life-changing surgery to regain her hearing. It took incredible courage and strength to beat XDR-TB, and Phumeza has bought those same qualities to her ongoing advocacy efforts in the fight against TB.

I admire this woman immensely, which is why I’m writing this blog post to let you know that Phumeza is currently raising funds so that she can undergo an operation to restore her hearing. This isn’t cheap: it will cost one dollar for every TB tablet she had to take during her treatment, but her doctors are confident she can hear again by means of bilateral cochlear implants.

It is impossible not to be moved by some very simple but tremendously challenging numbers:

Phumeza calling to 'fix the patent laws' to enable more people to access life-saving TB treatment around the world.
Phumeza calling to ‘fix the patent laws’ to enable more people to access life-saving TB treatment around the world.

Phumeza’s journey in numbers:
Number of times Phumeza was told she would die: 3
Days on treatment: 1340
Number of injections: 150
Number of pills swallowed: 20 000
To hear again: 1 dollar per pill (~US$20 000)

Phumeza’s proposed surgery date will be as soon as possible after the funds have been raised. I’m asking you to help make sure she can have the surgery sooner rather than later by considering making a donation to help this remarkable woman.

As a member of the global TB community, I know that without brave and strong voices like Phumeza’s it will take us even longer to finally win the battle against this deadly and debilitating disease. Tuberculosis still claims three lives every minute globally and is the leading cause of death in South Africa. It has taken so much from Phumeza, yet she has already given far more back: courage for those that come after her, inspiration for those on the front lines, and a voice for the millions in need. Please support her in her critical work.