Blastomyces victim offers warning

14 years ago

To the editor:

I want to share about something that I have been experiencing for quite a few months. My hope is, that by sharing my story with you and your readers, this letter might be what helps someone else if they were to notice similar symptoms happening to them.

Life has been difficult enough for me these past few years — considering all of the limitations that I have to deal with. Yet, as the new year got under way, I had resolved to focus on the positives. I was doing really well with this. Then in February and March, I became very sick with chronic, violent coughing.

Things seemed to settle down towards the end of March, and I anticipated an enjoyable summer.

Around Easter Sunday, I sat out on my back deck to enjoy the unusually warm afternoon. The center of my chest, just below my collar bone, felt a burning sensation inside below the skin. I took a break, from sitting outside, to check for sunburn. There was none.

The weeks went flying by while the burning sensation, and a lump, continued to grow inside, accompanied by discomfort. With my own doctor away on vacation, I telephoned others who are in the health care profession, to share my symptoms. No one seemed to be overly alarmed, although it had become my main concern.

When my doctor was finally back, I secured an emergency appointment with her. By then, the lump was visible. She became alarmed and sent me to a local surgeon, who, after tests had been done, was baffled by what these symptoms meant. So, he sent me to a doctor at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

More intense tests were done on the mysterious lump, and the doctor was able to tell me that what I had was a very serious and rare infection called Blastomyces. I saw a series of doctors and then, on June 25, 2010, I underwent surgery. The infection had been eating away at the bone. The surgeon had to scrape out the infection and also remove dead bone, and fuse a piece of a rib in its place.

Following the surgery, I later learned that had this not been diagnosed and treated, I eventually would have died.

I continue to have to see this team of doctors from Eastern Maine, in addition to taking a very powerful and expensive antibiotic for an entire year.

So … how did I happen to become seriously ill with this Blastomyces? Blastomyces actually lives in the soil up here in Aroostook County, and it is air borne. We all breathe it in. I have lived here ever since I was 2 years old and I have never had anything like this happen to me before. According to the doctors, in Bangor, anyone with a strong immune system is okay — but this Blastomyces will grab hold and move into the body of anyone, like myself, who has a weakened immune system. Therefore, in addition to treatments and antibiotics, I am currently working at building up my immune system by taking a vitamin and eating more fruit, vegetables, and protein. Incidentally, any fruit and vegetables that I eat will now be washed in hot water prior to consumption. Any water that I drink will be filtered.

I pray that no one else ever goes through what I am currently dealing with. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Anyone who has dealt with this (the doctors have told me that they have seen similar cases) knows the suffering that goes with it.

Debbie Jean Jordan