HINCKLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — This Memorial Day weekend will be filled with many families gathered around a campfire.
But for a Hinckley man, messing around with his woodpile is the likely cause for his life threatening condition.
He’s being treated for an extremely rare fungal infection which can be found in Midwest soils and rotting wood.
“The fire pit, there’s still stuff in there,” Lee Sybrant, the man’s wife, said.
Sybrant’s holiday weekend will be spent with trips to the University of Minnesota hospital where husband Jim remains in critical condition.
Doctors and nurses there are treating Jim with anti-fungal medications and antibiotics for the fungal illness called “blastomycosis.”
“That morning that he actually collapsed he said I think I better go to the hospital…I can’t breathe and he could hardly talk to me, it was that quick,” Lee said.
The fungus is found in soils and decaying wood. Sometimes it can appear as a cottony white mold. In most healthy persons it doesn’t lead to serious infections.
However, Sybrant’s body is immunocompromised by his ongoing fight with cancer.
“They’re treating it with an anti-fungal that’s very toxic and he’s now on dialysis because of it, it kills your kidneys,” Lee adds.
Minnesota sees just a couple cases of blastomycosis a year. It’s slightly more common in neighboring Wisconsin where the state sees about 10 cases annually.
Lee Sybrant now looks at the woodpile in their yard and hopes to warn others about the hidden, albeit rare danger.
“If you have any health issues to please wear a bandana or cover sinuses because we never thought this would happen to us, never,” Lee said.
A campfire that’s such a part of summer can also harbor a potentially fatal fungus.
A GoFundMe page has been up to help defray travel and medical costs.