Whilst Assistant Head Steward at a golf club, Allen began suffering from a sore throat and a mild chest infection. He thought it was just a case of ‘man flu’. Working in the Club House on a golf course, Allen was used to catching colds from customers. However, it wasn’t until his symptoms remained and intensified that he felt he was experiencing more than just ‘man flu’.
After several trips to the doctors, Allen was diagnosed with having pneumonia. As he worked long days maintaining the Club House in all weathers, he thought that pneumonia seemed an almost certain explanation for his symptoms. He was put on a course of treatment immediately, but unfortunately, he did not respond to his medication and his condition worsened.
Allen had also lost an alarming amount of weight. Initially, he didn’t notice his weight loss, as it was winter and he was often wearing baggy, thick jumpers. Nevertheless, he became quite concerned after he realised he was losing a lot of weight without any effort.
Allen then returned to the doctor with these new concerns, but they found it difficult to diagnose him. This was because he was showing many symptoms that could be associated with various different illnesses. After a week or so of numerous tests, doctors put Allen in for a biopsy, where he was diagnosed with TB within 8 hrs.
Both Allen and the doctors were surprised at his diagnosis and were unsure where he may have contracted TB. “There was a possibility I may have picked it up from a pub I used to visit in Grantham,” says Allen. “They tried to trace it back there, but nothing official was ever proven”.
Allen was then put on a course of TB medication for 18 months. During this time he had to stop working and became virtually sofa bound and a recluse in his own home. ‘It got to the stage where the only time I would venture out of the house was to have my medication at the hospital – for one hour, three days a week”. Allen also became increasingly nervous and paranoid about his appearance. “I chose to wear a scarf around my mouth and I only weighed eight and half stone, I looked like a prisoner of war”.
The psychological effects of TB did affect Allen particularly badly, especially as he found himself stigmatized by various people. He felt isolated as he realised some people did not want come near him as they knew he had TB and were worried that they would catch it. “The mental effects of TB still affect me today” he adds.
Allen also struggled with money during his illness. He was given statutory sick pay for a year from his job; however, things did become very tight financially. Fortunately, his younger sister moved in with him for a year, and managed to get herself a job locally, in order to help support him. Allen was very fortunate and happy that his sister was willing and able to help care and financially support him. Nonetheless, he felt that the hospital could have offered more advice and support for his physical and mental home care and his finances.
In April 2007, Allen finished his medication and was officially cleared of TB. Of course this was a big relief to him and his family after nearly two years of continuous blood tests, x-rays and strong medication. However, in the last year of taking his TB medication, Allen developed severe chest infections at least every two months. He was later diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is highly probable that it has been caused by scar tissue damage that has been left on Allen’s lungs due to TB. Unfortunately, this means that he still has to take medication and will probably suffer from lung and chest problems for the rest of his life.
Despite this, Allen remains relatively upbeat about his experience with TB and his future. “I’ve learnt to live with it and it’s not the end of the world” he says. “I am moving on and I will come out positively”.