By Merril Diniz:
We usually associate famous people – be it politicos, actors, artists or scientists with exciting, exhilarating lifestyles. But just like any of us they have their share of trials and tribulations. One of the common threads among these seven individuals, is that they all suffered tuberculosis, an infectious disease, which generally affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body.
Amitabh Bachchan contracted TB in 2000 just when he began shooting ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati‘. He underwent treatment for about a year, and is now hale and hearty. He went on to become an ambassador for TB prevention and treatment, and has played a role in busting many myths about the disease, including the most common one – that TB is a “poor man’s” disease.
If you’re a fan of classics like ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘1984’, you’ll be surprised to know that their author George Orwell, spent time in a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1938. In 1947 he was diagnosed with TB again. He struggled with this infection and was constantly in and out of hospital. Sadly, he was not lucky as others and succumbed to a haemorrhaged lung in 1950.
One of India’s greatest Mathematicians and autodidacts Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar (born in 1887), was also diagnosed with tuberculosis and admitted to a sanatorium, during his time in England. The time period was during the first World War, and his health had further deteriorated due to the scarcity of vegetarian food supplies. He eventually returned to India, and died of dysentery 32, but not before he had complied 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations).
One of the most famous women who survived TB was singer turned activist Tina Turner, most famous for her song ‘Simply The Best‘. She was diagnosed at the age of 31, and after trying conventional medicine to combat the disease without much success, she turned to homeopathic doctor Chandra Sharma, whose use of homeopathic and natural medicines worked. Not only was Tina Turner allowed her to continue performing but she was also cured within six weeks.
One gentleman who managed to camouflage TB for the longest time was Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s book ‘Freedom At Midnight‘, argues that the Partition of India could have been avoided if “the most closely guarded secret in India” had become known – that Jinnah was suffering from tuberculosis, which was slowly but surely killing him. He kept it a secret as he believed public knowledge would have hurt his political career. He eventually passed away at the age of 71, a year after partition.
South Africa’s most famous President Nelson Mandela contracted TB in 1988 while imprisoned in Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, a maximum security prison, which has housed South Africa’s most dangerous criminals and anti-apartheid activists, alike. Mr Mandela’s condition was treated early on and he was fully cured. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993. His fellow opponent of apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was also diagnosed with TB at the tender age of 14, but he is alive and kicking, today at the age of 85.
In 2015, TB overtook AIDs/HIV as the leading disease killer in the world. TB can lie dormant within us for years, and it can also be camouflaged, the consequences of which can prove to be fatal. The good news however, is that unlike AIDS/ HIV, which needs to be managed, TB is curable. To know more about its prevention and cure, you can delve into our rich collection of resources here.