A widow has warned the public to be wary of their hose pipes after her 63-year-old husband died of Legionnaires’ disease believed to have been contracted through working in the garden.
Stephen Clements, a Cromer grandfather, inhaled toxic bacteria which had grown in stagnant water within the pipe. He died a week later at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on February 24.
Now, the former builder’s wife Alison is cautioning others about the dangers of the disease, so that other families do not face the same tragedy as her own. North Norfolk District Council has been asked by Public Health England to investigate what happened.
The Felbrigg Estate resident explained: “Stephen had cleaned the patio earlier in the year and left the hose out across the lawn filled with water. In the winter sun, it was the perfect temperature for the bacteria to breed.
“He was cleaning the terrace with a stiff broom and the garden hose on spray. The sweeping of the broom caused the perfect aerosol, which my husband then breathed into his lungs.
“My husband had a heart condition but was active and well. He began having symptoms, which appeared to be an upset stomach to start with but rapidly developed into pneumonia.”
Mrs Clements, 61, also set up Eastern Natural Foods in Marble Hill with her husband, which operated from 1982 to 1988.
The mother-of-two added: “I didn’t believe them when they said he might not make it. Steve and I had been together 43 years. The last thing we spoke about was what we would do when he came home.
“He spent his last two days in intensive care at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. They called me and said that Steve kept taking his oxygen mask off because he didn’t like it, and that they were going to sedate him so they could insert a respirator.
“His his heart rate was going up and his kidneys began to fail. And then they told us that the antibiotics weren’t working on the pneumonia. “They took him off his heart medication and his heartbeat maybe another half a dozen times, and then he was gone.”
The family of Mr Clements, including his two children Joanna and Jefferson, said: “Our family feels his loss very deeply, especially as his death could have been prevented if we had had the knowledge of the dangers of Legionella bacteria.
“We had no idea that a garden hose could be so lethal.”
Mr Clements’ grandchildren Olivia, four, and William, two, are struggling with the loss of their grandfather. Mrs Clements said: “William especially doesn’t understand. It’s had real ramifications for them both. He’s just started to say ‘Papa gone?’ but then he’ll climb out of the car 10 days later and ask if ‘Papa’s here?’”
An North Norfolk District Council spokesman said: “North Norfolk District Council was asked by Public Health England to investigate Mr Clement’s case. “This involved taking water samples from the Clements’ property and, although Legionella bacteria were found in the hosepipe, tests associating that strain with Mr Clement’s were inconclusive. No other samples from the Clements’ property contained the bacteria.”
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacterium, called Legionella. People become infected when they breathe in the bacteria which have been dispersed into the air in very fine droplets of water known as aerosols. If the bacteria get inhaled into the lungs they can cause infection but it is very unlikely for one person to infect another.
Legionella can be found in many different environments. They can live in all types of water, including both natural sources and artificial water sources such as water towers associated with cooling systems and spa pools.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include a flu-like illness with muscle aches, tiredness, headaches, dry cough and fever, leading on to pneumonia. It can be treated with antibiotics.
If anyone is concerned that they are experiencing symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease, they should visit their doctor.
If yiu need to know how to protect yourself from Legionella bacteria then contact Collaton Consultancy for more information.