rat lungworm disease

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Mark LeRoy

Mark Leroy

Mark LeRoy was the second case on record for 2019. The disease has cost him five hospital emergency room trips and an extended hospital stay, and has left him with memory loss and nerve damage.

But before he was finally diagnosed, he says, emergency room doctors repeatedly refused to consider rat lungworm as a diagnosis.

LeRoy had the exposure and the symptoms. In January, he’d found a slug - one of the most common carriers for the disease - in a salad he was eating.

About 10 days later, while on a trip to Oahu, he developed severe pain and nausea and went to an emergency room. The ER doctors simply sent him home with medications for the pain and nausea.

But the symptoms persisted. Three days later, he went to the emergency room at North Hawaii Community Hospital. The doctors drew spinal fluid to check for eosinophils, but found only a 1% count.

The DOH standards, LeRoy was told, called for a 10% count. Again, he was sent home.

“It wasn’t until between my fourth and fifth visit to the emergency room that they officially diagnosed me at my second spinal tap,” he says.

The eosinophils count then was still only 7%. But because it had risen so quickly, and because, he believes, his wife and his primary care doctor backed him up, the doctors went ahead and tested for the parasite itself. That test came back positive.

Meanwhile, his symptoms had gotten steadily worse, including pain so bad that: “I couldn’t control it. I was screaming at the top of my lungs.”

He was hospitalized for a week, and dosed with steroids, fentanyl, Oxycontin, Ambien, and a morphine drip. After his release, it took him a full month to wean off all of the drugs except Ambien, which he still needs in order to sleep.

He believes that if his primary care physician hadn’t advocated for him, he’d never have been diagnosed correctly.

He thinks many other patients who didn’t get that extra help have never been diagnosed.

When the DOH, UH Hilo and three other state organizations held a joint informational meeting on rat lungworm in North Kohala on April 22nd, 2019 Leroy and his wife, Maya Parish, were on stage with them, sharing their experiences.

Mark has become an advocate for other victims and he hopes to address physicians themselves at a meeting in Hilo in early June of 2019, to raise the doctors’ awareness of the problem.

Excerpt from an article by By Alan D. McNarie in the Honolulu Civil Beat

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

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