Here, Bob Creek, 68, tells the story in his own words.
￼'Thanks for a fun night!’ I said to my friend Michelle, 45, after a barbecue. We’d stayed late and I couldn’t believe it was 1am. It was pitch black when I waved goodbye with my partner, Luo, 50.
‘Watch out for that hole in the garden,’ Michelle yelled. ‘I’m building a new verandah!’ But before I knew it, I’d fallen into the hole she’d just warned us about. Luo, who was holding my hand, tumbled in on top of me. We both burst out laughing. How could I have not noticed? I thought. It was a metre deep! ‘We’re not hurt,’ I assured a startled Michelle. I just had a tiny graze on my left shin, but the next day I decided to get my leg examined at the local clinic.
I’d heard of other Darwin residents catching a potentially deadly infectious disease, melioidosis, from bacteria in the soil. ‘Hopefully this little scratch isn’t infected,’ I told the doctor, who gave me a course of antibiotics. When the graze, the size of a 10 cent coin, hadn’t healed a few days later, I returned to the clinic for more antibiotics. But after my third course, I started to worry.
Seeing a specialist, the wound was swabbed and I was told to take it easy. But a few days later, I received a phone call. ‘You have melioidosis,’ someone from the infectious disease unit said, advising me to go straight to hospital. I felt a wave of panic at the nightmare news. I’ve got a disease that could kill me, I realised. All from a graze.
At hospital, I was admitted and given powerful medication intravenously. Every six hours, I got another dose to prevent the bug from spreading and destroying my organs. ‘I can’t believe this,’ I said to Luo. I kept a brave face for my kids, Rebecca, 38, Jade, 36, and Sam, 34, when they visited, but I was terrified at what lay ahead.
Thankfully, the treatment went well and after two weeks I could go home. I had to take medication for a further three months, and was warned the bug could flare up again. A sailing trip around south-east Asia had to be cancelled as I needed ongoing blood tests. In October, five months after catching the bug, I was finally given the all-clear.
If you spend time in the garden, always wear gloves and footwear – and try not to fall in holes!
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