James’s story

James Northey, at home in 2013James’s experience of tuberculosis treatment is still fresh in his mind and his emotions – 60 years on from being diagnosed with pulmonary TB in December 1952.

The fact that he is alive today is testament to the exciting changes that were happening to TB treatment at the time. New TB drugs, PAS, Streptomycin and Isoniazid, were becoming widely available; and Sir John Crofton was trialling combined therapy successfully in Edinburgh. Even today, tuberculosis is still treated through a combination of some of these same drugs – the famous ‘Edinburgh Method’.

James was a keen footballer and generally a fit and healthy young man when he got TB. But at the time of his diagnosis he was a shadow of himself, having lost two and a half stone in just six weeks. James was quickly diagnosed through a chest x-ray and referred for treatment in a TB sanatorium, where he stayed for over a year.

Fresh air and total bed rest were still common treatments for TB in the 1950s. James recalls being in the open air from dawn to dusk each day, in all weathers, for over seven months. James was among the first people to receive one of the new life-saving antibiotics, Streptomycin. Doctors were still working out the appropriate dose to give patients at the time, and James was told that had he developed TB just a year earlier he would have been unlikely to live for another year. Happily, James is still going strong 60 years on.

Although James was cured of TB, the damage to his health was long-lasting. He continued to cough up blood for decades after his illness, a terrifying result of the scarring to his lungs from TB. He also remains moved by his experience today. As James explains:

“I was devastated by TB. I’m scared that a lack of awareness about the increasing amount of TB in the UK today may lead to others going through the same thing as me. That’s why that I was glad to discover that TB Alert is doing something about it, and why I’m happy to share my story.”

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