Living with Filaria – Peggy’s story
A DPI feature
DPI, Guyana, Monday, October 23, 2017
“I must have been bitten when I was a baby,” so says a 30-year-old filaria-diagnosed individual who has been cruelly discriminated by society. Suggesting we call her Peggy, she has chosen to tell her poignant account of living with filaria, without delving into details which may expose her true identity.
Just recently, Peggy has become emboldened to join the Filaria Clinic at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). There, she regained the courage to interface with others and build trustworthy relationships with the unit’s nurses and the doctors.
When signs of Peggy’s filaria infection became visible, she was forced to quit her pursuit of tertiary education. Her future was initially bright after graduating among the top six performers from secondary school in the Lower Corentyne district in Berbice, Region Six. She relocated to Georgetown shortly after, seeking employment in order to finance her studies and the care of her younger siblings, back in Berbice.
Peggy desired to specialise in Food Sciences and catering but her dreams died shortly after enrolling at the Carnegie School of Home Economics.
A resident of Georgetown for 14 years, Peggy said early signs of the filaria infection were almost slim to none. However, when initial swelling was apparent, she considered that it may be her body’s reaction to a strange allergy, but never guessed filaria.
“When I see the thing, I was going Carnegie, so when I see the thing my friends make joke and say I getting big foot… that time they had the big foot song and they used to make fun of me”, Peggy admitted.
Peggy explained that the taunts ceased to be amusing when her legs began to hurt and she often fell sick. In addition to that, the swelling persisted and the skin stiffened. “I thought, you know that this thing gon’ swell and go down but it got bigger and I didn’t know what to do.”
Living in denial, Peggy refused to be tested for the filaria worm declaring that the disease only affected certain persons. She dropped out of school and further disregarded any plans to continue studies.
“I was depressed, but me ain’t want to go to the doctor. Is like I scared but still denying it, you know. I hear when you get ‘big foot’ it don’t go way so I still holding out that it can’t be that. I remember going to a church and asking the father to pray for me. They say that everything gonna be alright and I believe that.”
Meanwhile Peggy’s younger sister, who had moved to the city, took up the responsibility of caring for her. She ensured Peggy had a roof over her head, clothes to wear and food to eat.
By 2012, Peggy’s condition had worsened. She was unable to find a suitable and sustainable job and has even tried venturing into her own business but has failed.
“I like cooking you know, looking past my condition, I say I will start a roadside food business. It had it days, some not like some but it didn’t even last a month because I didn’t see the money to continue”, Peggy disclosed.
At one point, she has even contemplated suicide, “Things de get real hard, you know. Every time I go somewhere, people skin up they face and watch me. I saying to myself, I young, I have no support, not even a man in my life, I got this unknown sickness… If I died it would be the best thing for me because my mind went under a lot of pressure.”
Over the years Peggy has met others with ‘big foot’ and wondered how her life could possibly be compared to theirs. She had been living in denial for as long as 12 years (since 2004), and finally accepted that she may have filaria last year. What has been a saving grace over the years is her treatment regime of proper care and hygiene of her leg.
“Is only last year I say let me go and get a medical opinion, after 12 years” she continued with tears in her eyes, “I didn’t get turned away when I come here (GPHC Filaria clinic), I was welcomed and I was well catered for. If I de only know that is how it is, I would’ve come here long. The Nurse tell me that all I need to do is continue caring for the leg. I does get it massage and clean here steady, them girls don’t scorn me because they say all of we is human, you know.”
Now that Peggy knows the truth she encourages others to follow all preventative measures so as not to contract the filaria worm. “Life could be painful, life could be better but all you gotta do is try… try don’t get sick, try don’t get mosquito bite”, Peggy concluded.
By: Delicia Haynes