Glenaladale CFA volunteer John Hine was faced with a battle last year, one he never saw coming.
This time last year John was cutting up the annual supply of Redgum wood on his farm in Woodglen. John had no idea he was inhaling a small fungus that lives in some timbers.
The substance is in form of a white powder that when disturbed becomes airborne. John said a few weeks after cutting the firewood he began to feel sick.
“I started experiencing symptoms such as muscle aches, fever, sweating and headaches so severe no amount of Nurofen or Panadol could help me,” said John.
Initially it was thought that John had lung cancer as chest X-rays and CT scans revealed a shadow on the lungs.
“I was referred to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne for further scans and a bed was set aside for immediate transfer to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“It was soon discovered that in fact I didn’t have cancer but a rare fungus infection which has spread from my lungs into spinal fluid and into the brain.
The rare fungal infection is called Cryptoccal Fungus. The illness is very uncommon and on average 6 to 10 Victorians are diagnosed with infection every year.
“An intense medical treatment plan was administered including daily intravenous therapy of anti-fungal fluid by a team of specialist doctors and nurses.
“The treatment really flattened me, after my release I returned weeks later. It’s been a really long journey which all started exactly 12 months ago. It’s not completely gone yet, fingers crossed I can beat this.
The strain of fungus John inhaled is most commonly found in Redgum, but other strains exist in other timbers including Blue gum, and Blackwoods.
John shares his story so that others may learn. John said simple precautionary steps could have been taken like wearing a face mask.
“Our family and friends keep a pack of respirators on hand now; I hope I can educate others about the risk.
“I’m a self-employed farmer and CFA volunteer who drives the fire truck. I never even knew of Cryptoccal Fungus until I caught this illness.
“I just want to thank my family and my wife Carmel who has been by my side and seen me through ups and downs.
“Also a huge thanks to Glenaladale Brigade volunteers especially Captain Rick and Secretary Vicki O’Haire.”
Glenaladale Brigade is looking for volunteers, and more tanker drivers like John. If you are thinking of becoming a CFA member, call 1800 232 636 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org