Kate O’Brien, TB Survivor, New York City (NY)

By: Brier Published: 23/01/2020

Here are excerpts from our conversation with Kate:

“I thought [TB] was … an old school disease that people got a long time ago. I thought that it was like smallpox or something; like they had cured it and it had largely gone away, because it had gone away in my world.” 

“It was hard to get a sense of urgency from my doctors. I was pregnant so there’s just this expectation of misery and complaining because of it. It was hard to get definitive answers.” 

“Nobody thought of TB despite the fact that I was saying ‘I’m coughing up blood, I have night sweats, I have no appetite, I just kinda want to lay down all day’; nobody thought  tuberculosis, not a single person.”

“I really trusted my doctors to tell me what was going on but they didn’t seem to have a sense of urgency, and I knew that something was very wrong. It was very hard for me.” 

“I remember when they told me I had tuberculosis in the ICU and just being so happy and so relieved because I was like ‘That’s curable! That is something they can treat and cure!’ Emotionally I was in a great place … because I finally had a diagnosis. I was finally going to be on a road to feeling better, and they might save my baby.” 

“To act like diseases care about borders is really, really dumb. It’s shortsighted. It’s weird that we act isolationist about tuberculosis in the United States.”

“People need to know how many people die from tuberculosis even though we have a cure for it. When you think about what an injustice that is - that this is a curable disease - that keeps me up at night. It just makes me crazy when I think that 1.6 million people die of a disease that we have a cure for. It should make you nuts. It’s a huge injustice.”

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