One sunny day last September, Jennifer Horkoff went to work at University Golf Club in Vancouver despite feeling nauseous and unwell. When she arrived, her boss took one look at her and drove her straight to the Emergency Department at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). After blood tests, Jennifer was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and told that she would need to be admitted to the TB Unit for several weeks.

“I was shocked. I didn’t even know what TB was.”

“I had to phone everyone I had been in contact with,” says Jennifer. “Which was stressful. And I felt guilty. Although I know it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t even know where I got this from.”

Jennifer isn’t alone in her unexpected diagnosis. Each year, 1,600 people in Canada and 10 million people worldwide will learn they have TB. They all face the difficult reality of anywhere between six and 20 months of treatment.

The positive power of recreation therapy

Facing a long indoor isolation away from family and friends, Jennifer was cared for by the VGH TB Unit medical team and supported by Courtney Knight — the only Recreation Therapist at VGH and the only one in BC who works with TB patients.

“When I say I work on the TB ward, people say Is TB still a thing?” says Courtney. “It is. And with TB patients facing isolation from the outside world, it’s my role to help them engage in activities to maintain cognitive, social and emotional well-being. I worked with Jennifer to create an individualized plan that was engaging and meaningful to her.”

With Courtney’s help Jennifer learned to knit and launched a scarf and toque business — Woolly Cute — all without stepping outside the TB Unit. “It gave me a real sense of accomplishment,” says Jennifer who is now fully recovered. “I feel so grateful for Courtney — she was wonderful.”

How funding fights TB

Courtney’s role as the VGH TB Unit’s Recreation Therapist is made possible by donor funding. For over 30 years, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation has partnered with BC-based TB Vets Charitable Foundation who have invested more than $2.5 million to date.

“TB is preventable. TB is curable. The response to TB is investing in health care infrastructure.” – Dr. James Johnston, TB specialist and Head of Respiratory Medicine at VGH.

Your support has enabled research into new drugs to treat TB and supported the successful Recreation Therapy program.

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