Helping A Young Girl’s Dreams Come True

Speeches Shim

Thursday, March 25, 2021
Olena continues to hold on to a larger dream: “Most of all I want to be cured…I am dreaming of a time when I will be able to help other people.”
Nataliia Klymenko, Head of TB Department, Oblast Clinical TB Dispensary, Kramatorsk, Donetska oblast, Ukraine, December 18, 2020

Fifteen-year-old Olena (name changed) was not favored by destiny. She was three years old when her mother was diagnosed with HIV. Soon after, her father died of AIDS. Then her imprisoned brother returned home infected with tuberculosis (TB). Nobody cared to examine Olena’s health. At 12, she was diagnosed with HIV and tuberculous meningitis. She was quickly put on antiretroviral therapy and TB treatment and her condition improved.

Unfortunately, Olena’s mother did not ensure that she adhered to treatment. She repeatedly removed Olena from the hospital, interrupting her daughter’s TB and HIV treatments. Olena’s condition dramatically deteriorated. She fell into a coma and, in January 2020, was hospitalized in the intensive care unit of the Kharkiv Regional TB Dispensary’s pediatric TB ward. The multiple interruptions to Olena’s TB treatment had led to the development of a drug-resistant form of TB.

Olena was transferred to the Oblast Clinical TB Dispensary (OCTBD) in Kramatorsk, where she started TB treatment for the fourth time, this time for drug-resistant TB, which requires a longer treatment period and a cocktail of drugs.

The professionalism and responsiveness of TB doctors at OCTBD, their coordinated approach, and unanimous decision to see Olena’s treatment through to completion were effective. At the same time, her mother was also provided with social and psychological support to improve her adherence to her own antiretroviral treatment regimen. Following a difficult treatment regimen, Olena’s health improved and she emerged as a sociable, open, and responsible adolescent.

The health care workers caring for Olena knew that she would need additional support to continue her treatment and her journey to better health. Through USAID’s Support TB Control Efforts in Ukraine (TB Control), doctors put Olena in touch with experts from the Charitable Fund Club Svitanok, a sub-grantee of USAID’s TB Control activity, which provides social and psychological support to people overcoming TB in Donetsk Oblast. The professionals at Svitanok worked with Olena and her mother on the importance of maintaining their treatment and how to resume their lives.

While continuing to receive treatment at OCTBD, she resumed attending classes, using a smartphone that doctors lent her when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to go to remote learning.  While thankful, she dreamed of having her own computer.    

On St. Nicholas Day, a December holiday in Ukraine during which children receive gifts, Olena’s health and social workers made her dream come true and gifted her a computer. Ever thankful to St. Nick, Olena continues to hold on to a larger dream: “Most of all I want to be cured…I am dreaming of a time when I will be able to help other people.”.

Last updated: April 09, 2021

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