The cough that would not go away

Businessman Kingsley Koh, 62, did not think he would contract a disease like tuberculosis (TB).

A sprightly man, he does not drink or smoke and he jogged or took brisk walks up to three times every week. His only medical condition was high blood pressure.

However, after a business trip to China in January last year, he came down with a cough that would not go away.

Visits to his regular family doctor did not seem to help either.

Still, he dismissed it as simply a persistent cough until it became more serious in April. By then, he was coughing so badly it affected his sleep.

An X-ray then confirmed that he had TB and he was warded at Tan Tock Seng Hospital for four days.

'I was in shock. Why did I get such a disease? I had always taken care of my health,' he said.

After he was discharged, he had to visit the polyclinic every day for injections for two months. His visits to the polyclinic were later reduced to three a week.

His treatment regimen stretched over nine months during which he had to take a cocktail of pills.

During this period, the father of a 28-year-old daughter said he and his wife slept in different rooms.

He often left the windows open to ventilate his house.

His portion of food during meal times were kept separate to reduce the chances of passing the germs to his family.

Mr Koh kept to his medication routine religiously. When he finally completed the treatment last month, he was elated when he was told that he was clear of the disease.

'I was very happy that I'd won the battle,' he said.

Having experienced the disease first-hand and the treatment it entailed, he now advises employers to be more understanding should their staff members contract the disease too.

Instead of dismissing these employees, bosses should assign them other chores if their work is affected during the treatment period, he said.

'They will be cured in the end,' he added.

This article was first published on March 24, 2010 in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times.