World TB Day 2017 - Ammar, a story about TB

23 March 2017

My name is Ammar, I am 42 years old and I am from Deraa. Before the crisis in Syria, I was working in the telecommunications sector, then in a bank. Finally, I opened my own motorcycle shop in Deraa. After four and a half years in Jordan, all I can say is that I am thankful to this country for receiving us.

Two years after my arrival in Jordan I realized that something was wrong. At that time, I used to smoke and in the morning I had a strong cough and phlegm. A team of health workers from the International Organization for Migration visited my house to give me information about tuberculosis (TB). I told them about my concerns and they took me to Annoor Sanatorium for a medical check.

Of course, when I learnt that I had developed TB I felt depressed. The sickness affected the mood of the family, but they were supportive and I never felt rejected at home or with other people. I took it as a test from God. As a TB patient, the most important thing is to take measures to protect the children and other people around you. For example, you have to be careful and clean glasses and spoons after you use them.

After I recovered, I started to volunteer with IOM in Za’atari refugee camp as a community health worker. Our job consisted of going to people’s homes, and giving people basic information about TB, including on how to seek help if they suspect that they are infected. Generally, people have preconceived ideas about TB, some of them are right and some are wrong. For example, the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word TB is fear. They are afraid of TB because they think it is a lethal sickness, and because it is believed that if you get TB, after 4 or 5 months you will die. Part of our job is to explain to refugees that TB is not like cancer or like a chronic disease. If you follow the appropriate treatment, you will recover.

When someone is reluctant to take the treatment, I tell him or her that I had TB but now I have recovered, and I feel good. I do sports. And I smoke again, even if I know I should not! I know what it means to be sick, to have this sickness and to live with it, that’s why I am able to be a good community health worker.