Three days before Christmas last year, Aimee and Luke Baglin welcomed their second child, a daughter named Eva into their Sydney-based family. It should have been a magical time for the family, but within hours, it turned into a nightmare that they are still living six months on.
Born with a rare heart disease, Eva required open heart surgery almost immediately after being born and had to have a catheter inserted into her heart in April. Most of her young life has been spent in hospital, fighting for her life, always with Luke and Aimee by her side.
At the same time as the second surgery, though, 34-year-old Luke was having an MRI to try and locate the source of the frequent headaches he'd been experiencing for months.
Initially, doctors found what they believed were tumours throughout his lungs and eight lesions on his brain. Doctors told the Caringbah couple it was cancer and said Luke was likely to die. They recommended he get his affairs in order sooner rather than later.
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“I had to leave him there in the ED and pack a bag for Eva to go to Westmead,” 31-year-old Aimee, a nurse, said, adding, “You’d think one illness would be enough for one family."
Days later, a biopsy showed that what doctors had found was not cancer at all, but actually cysts caused by inhalation of a rare gumtree fungus. And while Luke's diagnosis went from terminal cancer to crytococcus meningitis and encephalitis, Aimee says she still felt that "no, this is still bad."
“It’s called Cryptococcus gattii," Aimee explained. "It comes from spore from the red gum tree specifically and some people breathe in the spores."
While extremely rare (just 96 cases have been recorded in Australia between 2000 to 2007), usually, crytococcus gattii infections are associated with those who work in sawmills and live in tropical areas - particularly those with dense red river gum and red forest gum populations. So how Luke, who lives in Sydney, contracted the illness, is still a mystery that's baffling doctors.
And while crytococcus gattii can be fatal, thanks to the early detection, Luke is now undergoing treatment at St George Hospital.