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IT’S TIME TO BEAT TB ! ONCE AND FOREVER !”

At the age of 25 (in year 1955), I lost blood in my sputum. X Ray showed cavity in right lung and sputum was TB positive.

Following immediate admission to sanatorium, treated with bed-rest, healthy food and beautiful climate (near Lembang, Bandung, West Java) with isoniazid, PAS streptomycin and artificial pneumothorax, developing in pleural effusion and eventually permanent extensive pleural adhesions constricting the affected lung.

Praise God, because after completion of treatment, I was allowed to finish my medical study (without any delay) in 1960 (University of Indonesia). I was then sent to serve in the innermost part of West Kalimantan (Kapuas Hulu). After a year of intensive travelling (rivers and forests), I returned to the provincial capital Pontianak for dental reasons. Senior colleagues were shocked at the sight of my appearance and ordered chest X ray. They were stunned after looking at my apparently ‘horrible’ lung, immediately ordering me to take a one-year sick-leave in Jakarta, where my parents lived.

During the break, I took up intensive ‘crash’ course in TB Control from famous Prof L.G.J. Samallo, After which I was scheduled to set up a TB Control Center back in Pontianak. Unfortunately however, the Governor of the province as well as the Ministry of Health couldn’t provide the funds for the building of the Center

At that time, Indonesia had a serious dispute with neighboring country Malaysia. I approached the highest Commander Supervising the boundaries with Malaysia, and wonder, after only the first visit I could receive the full grant to set up the building for the TB Center in Pontianak. Then followed the Ministry of Health which provided complete office and medical equipment including X-ray. With the X ray, I could collect funds from the persons examined by fluoroscopy and shared those with my personnel and also for the maintenance and repair of the building, as needed.

In 1967 WHO granted me fellowship to participate in International group training TB control (5.5 months) in Japan. During a long holiday weekend, I intended to climb the famous Fujiyama mountain, challenging my severely crippled lung, low oxygen saturation of the air and climbing to the top of the mountain, where I arrived, hours late to see the famous sunrise. I also managed to make a round-the-world trip to collect funds for our refugees resettlement project

After three years of medical humanitarian end resettlement services for the refugees in West Kalimantan, I was appointed to serve 1 year in Saigon and as head of a local medical relief team assisting Laotian refugees from the US-Vietnamese war. When the East Paksistani wanted to separate from West Pakistan, I was appointed by World Council of Churches to be Liaison officer eventually, Director of the Bangladesh Relief and Rehabilitation services.

Note, that even poor physical, socio-economical and stressful conditions could not get my lung TB relapse or reactivate. In 1983, after taking up specialization in lung disease and tuberculose in the Netherlands, and after a 7-year service at the Consultation Bureau for TB control in Amsterdam, I (we, my wife and two children) came back to Indonesia setting up the St Carolus TB Program.

The St Carolus hospital is the center of the Program with 5 peripheral health units throughout the city which I am to manage. I would personally, see all patients at the Center every day as well as all patients of the units weekly on rotation. All my patients are exempt from paying any doctor’s fee. All patients are welcomed with a handshake and sitting next to me or, within reach. During my lifetime , facing patients, I never put a face-mask. Patients with a face-mask, are welcomed to put it off, making understanding easier. If the TB patient didn’t come as scheduled, a home visitor would see the patient within a day. If unsuccessful for whatever reason, the doctor (me) and his wife would act to find, no matter what, and motivate the patient.

In very special, delicate situations with multiple problems, we would have regular sessions with persons of special capabilities (pastor, social worker, psychologist, etc) to find solutions. We organized seminars, recreational activities with patients still under- or, after-treatment, singing folksongs, motivating patients to stay under treatment until cure.

In our Program, all TB patients, confirmed diagnosis by excellent sputum (and X Ray) exam, must be cured. Patients must take 100 % of medicines as scheduled, or not less than 90 %. Before treatment, patients and companion are intensively motivated. Only after patient and company have complied to undergo treatment (whatever it may take), treatment can be started.

Six years after the Program was initiated, we gave two presentations at the Global TB Conference of WHO/IUATLD in Boston.

Four years later in 1994, we presented our TB Program from Flores, at the same Conference in Muenchen, Germany.

This is the short-story of Dr Muherman Harun, TB patient, Survivor, Challenger and Exterminator.