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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kaua'i man battling leptospirosis

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

A Kaua'i man continues to fight for his life at The Queen's Medical Center nearly five months after he was stricken with leptospirosis.

Benefit for Kimo

Benefit concert and silent auction for Kimo Jardin, 5 p.m., Sunday, Whalers Brewpub, 3132 Ninini Point; advance tickets are $10. Tickets at the door are $20.

For information call (808) 346-0171.

Donations may be sent to Jardin's family at 89-517 Puakolu St., Wai'anae, HI 96792.

State Highways Division laborer Kimo Jardin, 26, lost both legs, his spleen and a large amount of muscle tissue from the virulent bacterial infection, but his mother said yesterday that just in the past week doctors reported he finally appears to be making slow progress toward healing, although his condition remains extremely critical.

"He's so amazing and so strong," said Heidi Caldeira. "He just continues to beat the odds."

She said it is uncertain how her son contracted leptospirosis. Outbreaks are usually caused by exposure to water, food or soil contaminated with the urine of infected animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria can enter the body through broken skin or the eyes, mouth or nose. Most cases are mild and may be confused with the flu. Death from leptospirosis is rare.

In Hawai'i, many of the outbreaks involve campers or those who went swimming or wading in contaminated streams and ponds. Health officials said that people like Jardin who work outdoors also are at risk.

There have been eight cases of leptospirosis in Hawai'i so far this year, according to the state Department of Health. Last year, there were 36 cases, including four people who became ill as a result of the Oct. 30 flooding in Manoa.

The last Hawai'i fatality from the disease occurred Jan. 26, 2004, when college student Simon Hultman, 22, of Pahoa, died after spending the holidays with his family on the Big Island, where he went hiking and swimming. His death was the seventh attributed to leptospirosis in the state in the past decade.

Health officials said it's difficult to persuade people to stay out of Hawai'i's scenic streams and ponds, particularly during the summer months. "They should use common sense. Someone with an open wound might want to think twice before entering freshwater areas," said Dr. Sarah Park, deputy chief of the Disease Outbreak Control Division.

If you can't resist the cool waters, Park advised against dunking your head underwater, and said that if you see a doctor for flu-like symptoms after swimming in a pond or stream, don't forget to mention it. Rodent control also can help prevent outbreaks, she said, since rat urine can be a source of leptospirosis infection.

Jardin, a 1996 Kaua'i High School graduate, was taking over-the-counter medicine for what he thought was the flu when he collapsed Jan. 6 at his parents' home in Anahola, according to Caldeira.

He was taken by medevac to Queen's the following day and has undergone several surgeries and nearly daily procedures to have dead tissue removed from his limbs. Doctors had warned his parents that he likely wouldn't survive.

Jardin suffered organ failure and other problems, and in March both of his legs were amputated.

He has been heavily sedated the entire time, so his family has not had much of a chance to talk to him over these difficult months, said Caldeira, who quit her job at the Princeville Resort on Kaua'i and has been living with relatives on O'ahu to be near her son.

Jardin's medical bills have topped $2 million, she said, and although his health insurance is covering most of the costs, the ordeal has been a financial strain on the family.

Concert promoter Sean Tayco and other friends on Kaua'i have organized a fund-raising concert and silent auction for Jardin on Sunday at the Whalers Brewpub, 3132 Ninini Point, featuring Damon and Pomai Williams, Revival, Kalapaki, Top Notch, Simple Sessions, Higher Ground and Revolution Zen.

Families are welcome from 5 to 10 p.m., with events continuing after 10 p.m. for those age 21 and older.

Reach Christie Wilson at (808) 244-4880 or cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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