Jillian’s sister in law has set up a Givealittle page to provide financial support for her and Cade while she’s in hospital. PHOTO / Wadsworth

A solo working mum from Christchurch is fighting for her life in hospital after contracting legionnaires’ disease whilst gardening.

Jillian Wadsworth, 40, is currently in ICU in Auckland Hospital in an induced coma. She is hooked up to an ECMO machine, which is trying to help her body recover after the disease caused several vital organs to fail.

Wadsworth’s sister-in-law Grace Wadsworth said the disease swiftly took hold of her body after she contracted it, presumably while gardening, a week and a half ago.

“She’s an avid gardener and not last weekend but the weekend before she was in the garden a bit,” Grace said.

“Not long after she felt not quite right… she thought she was getting a nasty flu.”

Jillian headed off to the doctor where she was told she must have a chest infection. But a couple of days later she went back, feeling worse.

“She couldn’t keep food down, she couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t move without it being painful.”

Jillian was again misdiagnosed and sent away with antibiotics. It wasn’t until Thursday when a doctor realised what was going on. She was put on to oxygen and antibiotics and on Friday afternoon she called her mother Heather to tell her that doctors were putting her in an induced coma.

She had since been flown to Auckland Hospital for more specialised care.

Jillian herself was a strong, independent woman who would do anything for her son, Grace said.

“She just adores him.”

Grace believed Jillian had been aware of the disease but hadn’t thought it was a real possibility.

“I guess it’s one of those things. You know you could be in a plane crash but you still get in a plane.”

She wanted to spread awareness of the disease to other gardeners out there and if possible, prevent other families from going through the same traumatic experience.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

  • Legionellosis is a respiratory infection caused by Legionella bacteria.
  • Legionnaires’ disease can vary in severity from a flu-like illness to severe pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, shortness of breath and coughing.
  • Legionella can be found in any type of water system, and in soil. They have been found in the environment in creeks, ponds and potting soil.
  • The bacteria are prevalent in warm stagnant water such as can occur in plumbing systems, hot water tanks, water in cooling towers, evaporative condensers of large air conditioning systems and spa pools.
  • The disease is not very common – there are about 20 confirmed cases of legionellosis annually in the Auckland region.
  • The period between exposure and onset of illness for Legionnaires’ disease is 2-14 days, commonly 5-6 days.

Source: Auckland Regional Public Health Service

Source: NZ Herald

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