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Husband's pain as Carmarthen Legionnaire's victim Iona James emerges from coma to begin recovery

By Carmarthen Journal  |  Posted: November 21, 2012

By Lee Macgregor

  • Peter and Iona James pictured at their daughter’s wedding

  • Iona James, who spent three and a half weeks in a coma after contracting legionnaires’ disease.

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A CARMARTHEN woman has spent three and a half weeks in a coma after contracting Legionnaire's disease.

Iona James was moved out of intensive care at the town's Glangwili Hospital on Monday night.

The 66-year-old will have to learn how to walk, feed herself and carry out many other everyday activities after losing strength while fighting the disease.

Her husband, Peter, 64, of Maple Crescent, said his family was now hopeful she would be home for Christmas. But when she does get discharged she may require 24-hour care.

She was one of five people from the Carmarthen area to be struck down by the disease, though her case is not believed to be linked to the other four.

Mr James told the Journal this week that since she had fallen ill in September it had been an incredibly worrying time for his family.

"We had our anniversary while she was in a coma — it was the first time we'd been apart in 46 years," he said.

"It's been very worrying for everyone, but I've got good kids, let's put it that way.

"Our two daughters are great. The youngest is there three times a day and the eldest works up there, so she's calling in regularly.

Rallied

"All the family has been great, everyone's rallied round. Iona's sister is there all the time."

The couple returned from a trip to Spain with Mrs James's sister and sister-in-law on September 20.

After feeling unwell for a few days, Mrs James was admitted to Glangwili with suspected pneumonia on October 3. A day later, following diagnosis, she was induced into a coma.

"They said it came from Spain because the Legionnaire's doesn't have the same characteristics as the other people in Carmarthen," Mr James said.

He added that his wife had been feeling unwell for a few days before she was admitted to hospital.

"Her sister phoned her, and then she called me in work saying she wasn't coherent," said Mr James.

"So I went home and within two minutes the doctor was there.

"If it hadn't been for her sister phoning her in the morning, nothing would have been done until the night and you don't know what would have happened."

Mr James said seeing his wife suffering had been difficult.

"The hardest part was when she first came out of the coma, she just looked at you — there was no expression," he said.

Better

"She's a lot better now, you can talk with her.

"They brought her round slowly, they took her off the ventilator for a bit and then put her back on it to get her body going.

"She's had the tracheostomy taken out now.

"She's talking very quietly — it's more of a whisper.

"She's convinced she is coming home in a couple of days. Every time I go up she says 'I'll be home in two days'.

"She's in no pain and she's getting better."

But he said his wife was having to re-learn how to carry out many basic functions.

He added: "Basically they've got to teach her to do everything again."

Mr James said he had nothing but praise for the care his wife had received.

"The care has been first class," he added.

"You ask them for something and it's done. Nothing is too much.

"If you paid for private care you wouldn't get better.

"I just can't thank the nurses enough."

This week the Journal contacted Public Health Wales for an update on the other four Legionnaire's cases.

The source of the outbreak has not been identified.

It said investigations were ongoing.

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