8 year old Azhagu lives in a remote rural village in Southern India in a cramped one room home with his mother, father and three older sisters. They live on the breadline; both his parents work when they can in farming and building, but earn less than £3 a day.
Azhagu is a bright, energetic boy who loves playing with his big sisters and always helps out around the home. When Azhagu fell ill last year with a persistent cough and night sweats no one in his family knew about Tuberculosis. Azhagu’s parents decided to take him to a local traditional healer. The healer charged Azhagu’s parents for some useless medicine, which had no effect whatsoever, and Azhagu’s condition worsened.
Since 2009 we have been able to train over 1,500 local volunteers in this area to find and support people with TB. It was mother of two Valarmathi found Azhagu when she was visiting the village one day to check on a patient she was caring for. She recognized his symptoms and spoke to his father, when she explained that she suspected that he had TB his parents were terrified:
‘He is our only son, and we couldn’t imagine what we would do if we lost him.’
On Valarmathi’s advice Azhagu’s parents took him to the local hospital for TB testing. Once confirmed as having TB Azhagu was immediately started on TB treatment and every day before school his parents now take him to the local clinic for his medication.
Valarmathi visits Azhagu every 2-3 days, and will do for the next 8 months, to support the whole family and to ensure that Azhagu completes his treatment successfully. Valarmathi has also helped to secure additional food for the family, so that Azhagu is strong enough to handle the strong TB medication.
‘Azhagu is much better now,’ says his father. ‘Before the TB treatment he had lost his appetite and had no energy. He’s back to being a happy little boy, and we have Valarmathi to thank for that. We knew nothing about TB before we met her, but she has given us so much support and advice. We wouldn’t have known what to do without her help, and really she’s like the angel of god – she saved our son’s life.’