Sydney father-of-two Jeremy Mitchell isn’t much of a gardener but when his 10-year-old daughter Erica wanted to plant some flowers, he thought it would be a fun bonding activity. But a few days later, he started feeling unwell.
“I had sort of a fever and I thought, I’ve just got the flu,” Mr Mitchell told 9NEWS.
When his symptoms got worse, his wife convinced him to go to emergency at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital.
“The next thing I knew I was in intensive care, with 10 percent lung capacity and they said look we’re going to need to put you in a deep sleep, we’re going to have to put a tube down your throat and make you breathe,” he said.
“I was supposed to be only under for two days and when I woke up, I realised it had been seven days.” The 46-year-old was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease – a rare and potentially deadly form of pneumonia.
There are two main species of Legionnaires’ – Legionella pneumophila (found in air conditioning cooling towers, spas and shower heads) and Legionella longbeachae (found in soil or potting mix). In Mr Mitchell’s case, microbiologists traced the bacteria to an $8 bag of potting mix he had purchased from Bunnings.
Contracting Legionnaires’ is a risk with all brands of potting mix and is not specific to the type Mr Mitchell purchased. While there is a warning in small print on the back of the bag, he claims no one told him about the risk or need to wear protective gear while using it.