Entries Tagged 'Valley fever' ↓

Valley fever, in their words

“How many of you have had valley fever?” I asked.

I was sharing some of the major findings from the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s ‘Just One Breath’ series on valley fever with about 40 San Joaquín Valley reidents. Not one person raised a hand.

I rephrased the question: “How many of you know someone who has had valley fever?”

Hands shot up around the room.

Their response underscored an underlying theme of the Reporting investigative series: Valley residents have largely accepted valley fever as a fact of life. Everyone knows somebody who has had valley fever – most have survived.

The pictures below, by Vida photographer Daniel Cásarez, begin to illustrate the widespread impact this disease has had on Valley residents.

After I finished my presentation, Domitilia Lemus, of Plainview, above, shared her connection to valley fever with the group: A relative, she said, died at age 21 of valley fever, leaving behind two children.

Later, I invited group members to write their connections to valley fever on a white board. Esther Martínez, of Alpaugh, above, scribbled: “I know six people with valley fever, but they don’t want anyone to know they have this disease. I hope they find a cure.”

More residents shared their connections to valley fever with me – and you. Their photos and stories – written in their own hand writing – are below.

Josie, of Seville

Becky, of Seville

Erasto, of Porterville

 If you’re community group would like to learn more about valley fever, or if you’re interested in sharing your struggle with valley fever, e-mail us at valleyfever@reportingonhealth.org, or call (661)748-3142 and leave a message.

Or, write your experience on a white board, and e-mail us the picture.

Valley fever, previously on Harvesting Health:

Just One Breath: Share your Valley Fever story on ‘Valley Edition’

The first stories in the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s series on valley fever, called ‘Just One Breath,’ ran this weekend in the Bakersfield Californian, the Merced Sun-Star, the Stockton Record, the Voice of OC, and KVPR. They will run in Vida en el Valle, in Spanish, on Wednesday.

Valley fever is often regarded as a fact of life in Central California. But the first stories in the ‘Just One Breath’ series reveal that even as the disease reaches epidemic proportions, the disease and its impact remain hidden, due to widespread misdiagnosis, a lack of research funding, and a history of neglect by state and federal policymakers.

Behind those cases of valley fever are people whose lives have been forever changed by the disease. Each individual story is uniquely devastating, but there are some common themes: People suffer as their range of symptoms confound doctors. Their school and professional work, and their passions and lives, suffer due to their illness. They express frustration that, even in highly endemic parts of the state, there is little understanding of the disease.

These stories are best told in people’s own voices. And the series has already featured some moving personal stories:

Emily Gorospe

Emily Gorospe, 7, was too sick and tired to dance – let alone walk through the halls of her family’s Delano home – when she first contracted Valley Fever. She’s now lived with the disease for more than a year, and has developed coping skills for her many doctors’ visits.

But despite her bravery, Emily has struggled with having a serious illness at such a young age. Her constant refrain for the past year has been: “I hate valley fever. Why did it have to pick me?

Todd Schaefer

Todd Schaefer was diagnosed with spinal fungal meningitis in the fall of 2003. But heavy antifungal drugs with harsh side effects, coupled with other health complications, have made his condition hell, he said.

Schaefer and his wife, Tammy, own an award-winning winery, Pacific Coast Vineyards. But during an early August interview, Schaefer said he had worked just two days in the past six months. “I need to get an exorcist,” he said. “I am possessed. I hate it. I’m so sick of it. Get it out of me!”

We want to hear your experience with valley fever, too.

On Tuesday morning, our reporting on the disease will be featured on Valley Public Radio’s ‘Valley Edition’ program at 9 a.m.  Kirt Emery, health assessment and epidemiology program manager for the Kern County Public Health Services Department, and Dr. John N. Galgiani, director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, will also join the discussion.

We hope you will call in to share your story, and help put a human face on this disease. The studio line is 800-224-8989.

Valley fever, previously on Harvesting Health: