GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Being active in the great outdoors of Wisconsin should be one of the best things you can do for your health. But a woman wants to raise awareness after losing her father to what you might call a hidden danger that lurks along the banks of the river.
“It’s so cool, his passion for the outdoors, hunting and fishing and being with family,” recalls Kim Vandenavond. “He just enjoyed it and he enjoyed sharing it with all of us.”
A passion for the outdoors is something his father, Russ Gettleman, passed on to his family from generation to generation.
“I also like to hunt and fish,” Vandenavond said. “We love being outdoors.”
Sadly, it was this love of being outdoors that led to Gettleman’s death. Weeks after taking his grandson on a hunting trip, Gettleman exhibited symptoms that are all too familiar today.
“He was breathless, a little feverish and just feeling under the weather you know,” Vandenavond described.
To be on the safe side, Vandenavond took her 80-year-old father for a checkup.
“We just thought, ‘We’ll give him the COVID test and see what the doctors say,’ and then the Aurora team did these other tests and they came back with this blastomycosis,” she said. declared.
Pulmonary fungal blastomycosis was not at all what Vandenavond had suspected.
“I had never heard of it before,” she said.
Dr. Raul Mendoza of Aurora Baycare Medical Center says most people, even some doctors in other parts of the country, have never heard of it before, but here in northeastern Wisconsin, Mendoza has seen more than its fair share of lung disease.
“Here in our area we have a lot of cases around the Wolf River and in Peshtigo,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza says blastomycosis is caused by the spore of a fungus called blastomyces that lives in the ground next to rivers and wetlands. When humans or pets inhale the spores, it can cause a type of pneumonia that can become fatal within days.
“Within hours or days, it can go from zero to a hundred and kill a patient,” Mendoza explained.
Mendoza says it is, however, treatable if detected early. In fact, he says the vast majority of people won’t get this fungal infection or their immune systems will be able to fight it off, like Vandenavond’s nephew.
“My nephew had it too but because he’s young, 30, he could fight it
“Vandenavond says neither she nor her father would want people to avoid being outdoors. She says she just wants to spread the word to be aware that blastomycosis is prevalent in our part of the country and to make sure you get tested if you start experiencing symptoms after being outside.
“We love the outdoors in Wisconsin and we have so much to be thankful for and that’s no reason not to get outside. Know you can be tested and know you can be treated,” Vandenavon said. “If your dog isn’t feeling well and you aren’t feeling well and your buddy you dated isn’t feeling well, get yourself checked out and your dog checked out.”
If you want more information, go to aurorabaycare.com or use their LiveWell app. You can always call them too: 1-866-938-0035 or email: [email protected]