Oxana and Pavel Rucsineanu fell in love under the drug-induced haze of powerful tuberculosis medications.
t was the summer of 2008. They were both in their late 20s, and they should have been in the prime of their lives.
But instead, Oxana and Pavel had a version of TB that is resistant to most drugs. They were living in a crumbling hospital in the Moldovan city of Balti. The TB ward was a version of hell for Oxana. The air was hot and sticky. Neither of them wanted to be there.
"For how long," Oxana asks, "can you stay and swallow these pills, watching the walls and doing nothing?"
The treatment for drug-resistant TB takes a minimum of 18 months, but it can last for years. Boredom eats away at you, patients say, the same way the TB bacteria eat away at your lungs — slowly, day after day.
Oxana and Pavel were still in treatment when they decided to marry in 2009. Their doctors gave them permission to have a small open-air wedding in a park — despite the fact that active TB infections spread through the air.
Oxana was cured in 2010. Pavel, however, is still sick, and his doctors say his form of the disease has evolved to be incurable. Pavel has extremely drug-resistant TB, or XDR-TB, a version of the infection that has become a growing problem around the world, particularly in India, Eastern Europe and Southern Africa. Pavel’s doctor, Tetru Alexandriuc, refers to XDR-TB as an “infectious cancer.”
Earlier this year, Oxana gave birth to their first child, David. But Pavel remains ill, and can’t live at home with his new baby.
Photography by Jason Beaubien