As a young law student, Amy’s attention was on studies not TB. She thought the BCG vaccine she’d had as a child would protect her from what she considered a ‘disease of the past’. Not knowing the symptoms of TB, she was never on the look out for it when she got ill.
These factors, and the delay in diagnosis, led to Amy’s TB becoming life-threatening.
“In April 2004, I got antibiotics from the doctor for a dry itchy cough. I was a busy 24-year-old law student and thought my illness was just stress about my studies.
“But over the next three months the cough got worse and I lost a stone, so I went back to the doctor and got more antibiotics. The only person who mentioned TB at this stage was my uncle, but I didn’t take it seriously, as I’d had my BCG vaccine.
“From September to December 2004 I got more tired but carried on. When I went home for Christmas everyone noticed my weight loss. My Doctor referred me to hospital. Around January 2005 I started to get night sweats.
“My hospital appointment took six weeks to come through because the first letter was lost. I had an x-ray but heard nothing. Then, in April 2005, the hospital did a bronchoscopy and sputum test and I was diagnosed with TB. By this time I’d dropped from 8 to 5 and a half stone. I was put on TB treatment.
“I have to admit that I didn’t start taking the tablets for three weeks because I was so scared of side effects that I’d read about and that the nurse had told me. I thought these were really common.
“A month after my diagnosis, an x-ray showed that one of my lungs had collapsed. A couple of weeks later I was in hospital for two weeks and given physiotherapy to help my lung. I finished my treatment in January 2006 and was given the all clear.
“About a month later red circles appeared on my legs, so I went to the county hospital. My heart rate was high. A consultant took samples. I heard nothing for three weeks, so I called and was told that they’d lost my notes. I persevered and returned to my doctor who gave me more antibiotics. My cough came back and I began to feel sick, tired and lost weight again.
“That May I went back to my doctor and was given an emergency appointment for the chest clinic – but before this came up I was admitted to hospital with a pneumonia-related infection where they found that my TB had re-occurred. Because my lung had collapsed not all the bacteria had been killed off. In May 2007 I had an operation to remove my lung.
“Thanks to my family, friends and medical staff I’m getting better and catching up with my studies.
“When I was diagnosed with TB I was surprised, as I thought it was a Victorian disease but I was also relieved because I thought it was asthma. I didn’t think I could get it because I’d had the BCG vaccine and wasn’t coughing up blood. Now I know what signs and symptoms to look out for.”