The year 2015 – it was a year perfect for me. I got married. I got an onsite opportunity in the UK for a very large FMCG company. Within 5 months of my marriage, I came to know I am going to be a father. Like in Will Smith’s movie, I was indeed in the little phase of “happiness”.

Little did I know that everything would soon turn upside down.


After my wife had flown back to India, my food habits became haphazard. A vegetarian by religion and choice, sometimes I used to cook with the help of my colleagues. When I couldn’t cook, I just skipped my meal and slept. Gradually, I became thinner. I soon got a dry cough which just wouldn’t go away and I decided that I needed help. I booked an appointment with the local doctor and then was advised to take nasal drops, but I didn’t see any signs of improvement.

Hard Time

Back on Home Ground

My stint at the UK came to an end by April 2016, just around the time my daughter was born. I flew couple of days earlier than my end date of my project, just so I could be with my wife during labour. All my relatives were disturbed at the way I looked and advised me to go for a full health check-up. I was thin, pale and constantly coughing.  I chose to ignore them and went to an ENT. I was given meds, which helped with the cough. Now that I was back in Chennai, with good homemade food, seasonal dry fruits, and nice hot weather, I regained some kilos. While not much but was encouraging signs.

Bitter Winter

When winter approached, I slowly started getting my cough back. One day in December, I went out to play football and hurt my knee. Generally I recover very quickly, but this time it took me weeks to walk without a limp. I convinced myself that it was because I wasn’t playing frequently enough. By the end of that month, I couldn’t eat properly and was losing weight rapidly. I couldn’t eat more than couple of idlis. Dosas – my go-to food, I could hardly finish one.

Come January 2017, things worsened. I started getting severe back aches. After work, I would just come home and head straight to bed without even change of clothes. All these things affected my mental health. I easily would become irritated and raise my voice

Harsh Reality

We decided to consult a doctor and booked an appointment with a Gastro Specialist in a famous hospital nearby. The doctor made us take few scans and then asked me to get admitted immediately. We were told that there was some infection and a then whole bunch of scary things. We were promised that spending few days would get me completely cured of it. Knowing we had health insurance to back us up, I got admitted. Little did we know, the doctor brainwashed us and the treatment given was in no way related to my illness. The doctor was also rude to me and my family members. Like a blessing, one of the attendants who got friendly with us told my mother to escape from the hospital or risk wrong treatment. We made up a family emergency and immediately got out of there. We then booked an appointment with another doctor, who initially diagnosed it as GERD and gave medicines. On a follow-up consultation, he was unhappy that my condition was not improving. He asked me to take a CT scan and come back again.

The CT scan report came, the impression said Tuberculosis. My entire family was shell shocked. I initially thought it is a terminal disease but soon came to know TB had medicines and is curable. I called in office and requested to take a month off. I started taking TB medicines, however none of the symptoms like back aches, vomiting or night sweats went away. The doctor requested us to consult with a pulmonologist. On consultation, I was prescribed a Streptomycin injection every day. As I continued with the medicines, slowly I lost sensation in my legs and soon lost my motor skills, meaning I couldn’t walk even a step. As days went by, I lost sensation till my chest. I got stiff scared and realized something was wrong gravely. When we reported this to the pulmonologist, he asked us to consult a neurosurgeon.

Ray of Hope

advanced stages of TB

We then met Dr Meenakshi Sundaram. He calmly asked me to describe every one of my symptoms. He then went through all my reports line by line and then gave me the news - I was at advanced stages of TB and that it has affected my vertebrae so much that two bones just behind my lungs have collapsed. He advised immediate surgery and asked us to take an MRI scan and rush to an orthopaedic.

Ray of Hope

Dr. S. Arumugam

Dr Arumugam, a family friend and a well-wisher, agreed to wait at KM Hospital at night 11 PM till we come to see him with the MRI Report. He went through the reports thoroughly and scolded us for not coming to see him earlier. He informed us that surgery was indeed needed as my vertebrae were badly infected and that D4 & D5 bones have completely collapsed.

Surgery is always scary

Moment of Faith

A surgery is always scary. No matter how small it is. In this case it was for my spine. We couldn’t digest the news. He warned us that a small fall could paralyze me for life. He then sternly asked me to get admitted the following morning. We were informed that imported bones in similar shapes to mine would be surgically implanted in the place of the collapsed ones. A day later I was taken to the ICU. Inside, I wished Dr. Arumugam Good Morning. To which he smiled and said, “Everything is going to be alright, we have the best team in Chennai for you”. I was introduced to his team of doctors. All of them looked calm and confident. Seeing their calm faces somehow calmed me too. Without much delay I was administered a full anaesthesia and before I could count three, I was out.

A New Dawn

I woke up in a room, I don’t know after how long. My sister and my wife were standing next to me. The pain of the surgery slowly started creeping in as the anaesthesia wore out. However, this time the pain was different. It wasn’t like the severe back pains which I used to have. The pain was more confined to the 30 odd stapler stiches. Strangely the pain was tolerable. The next day Dr. Arumugam came to my room for a visit and checked my vitals. He then asked me to move my toes. I did. He smiled at me and said everything is good.

I stayed at the hospital for two more weeks and then shifted back home, where I had rented an ortho bed. After a week, Dr. Arumugam sent a fellow surgeon to my home to remove my stitches. That was very considerate of him because otherwise I would have to use an ambulance to go to the hospital to have that done. He helped us get in touch with a physiotherapist named Dr. Shankar who helped me strengthen my leg muscles. After two more weeks, I was ready to take my first step. A moment which my entire family was waiting for. Shankar held me, and with a walker I made it to the hall of my room!

During the physio sessions, Shankar would tell me stories of different patients he has seen and would tell me how lucky I am to be walking again. He would say Dr.Arumugam has given me back my full life.

A Fast Recovery

In four months, I was back at work. Though still wearing a lumbar jacket, I was confidently walking on my own. Without fail, I would visit Dr. Arumugam every week for follow-up appointment and he would have some encouraging words for me on how much I have improved. I must admit that I went to the follow-up appointments to hear his words of encouragement more than for anything else. He never charged me for any of my follow-up appointments. After 13 months, I was asked to discontinue my TB medicines.

In Conclusion

Tuberculosis is the world’s biggest killer. One in three TB deaths in the world happens in India. Some deaths happen because of people discontinuing medicines after couple of months. They end up getting resistant to further treatment when it relapses. Even with advancements and social media, Tuberculosis is still a stigma. Also it is a myth that TB affects only smokers. Tuberculosis can affect anyone and any part of your body. I know people who have had TB near their hearts, TB in the hand muscles, TB in the neck etc. In my case TB got to my lungs and vertebrae. Dr. Arumugam, sent to me by God, got me up and running. I can now walk normally without jackets, walkers or support.

Me, with titanium implanted bones in my vertebrae, cured of TB completely, in January, gave a dance performance at my sister’s sangeet function.

Ramakrishnan R