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Legionnaires' has almost blinded me, says former nurse


A RETIRED nurse has described how he fought for his life and lost the sight in one eye after contracting Legionnaires' disease.

The 68-year-old, who lives in Purley, is one of four people in Croydon to have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal lung infection.

He spent a month in hospital, including treatment in an intensive care unit.

The man, who asked not to be named, has been left virtually blind, unable to move his fingers and with impaired speech – all from an infection which began like a common cold.

"I started to feel unwell one Friday in July after I came from work, it felt like flu," he said.

"After the weekend I thought I had fully recovered. Then, on the Monday, I became very breathless.

"My GP said it was flu but my wife thought it was more serious so she took me to A&E at Croydon University Hospital.

"I can't remember what happened once I got there. I was asking for oxygen. I am from a medical background so I realised I was in a lot of trouble."

The man was rushed to intensive care and put on a ventilator for several days.

He was then moved to a specialist unit at St Thomas' Hospital, in Southwark, where he was diagnosed with Legionnaires'.

Doctors are investigating four cases of the infection, all confirmed within the last month.

Laboratory tests confirmed this week that three of the four strains are definitely not linked, leading experts to declare the disease does not pose a wider threat to the public.

They have yet to identify sources of the bacteria which is often connected to foreign travel.

The Purley victim, who was among the first three cases to be identified, fell ill a week after returning from a holiday in New York.

Although retired, he had been working at a care home in South Croydon when the symptoms emerged.

The Legionella bacteria is found widely in rivers and ponds, but can thrive in artificially heated water sources, such as showers or baths.

"Some guy from the public health team turned up to my house," said the patient, who was eventually transferred back to Croydon University Hospital before being discharged earlier this month.

"He didn't take any samples. He just took a look at the shower and the back garden and said it was all OK.

"They didn't go to my workplace, they just made a couple of phone calls."

Now blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other, he contacted the Advertiser after his wife read our coverage of the cases.

"The disease has really affected me," he said.

"I can barely see and my fingers are stiff and painful. I can't even dial a phone properly.

"I find it difficult to walk. My wife is having to do everything for me.

"The most frustrating thing is not knowing how it happened."

The man said he was not sure, from what he had been told by doctors, as to whether he would regain some of his sight.

Legionnaires' has almost blinded me, says former nurse

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