Duncan man gives CHEK News ‘credit for saving my life’


WATCH: A Duncan man says he’s lucky to be alive after contracting a rare and dangerous illness from airborne spores on East Vancouver Island. Ken James was one of the first to contract the potentially deadly Crytococcus Gatti and he credits CHEK News for the early diagnosis that’s saved him.

Ken James never misses CHEK News.

It’s a nightly ritual after a lifesaving story that the retired mill worker had to see came on and changed his life forever.

“Absolutely,” said Ken James. “I give CHEK News credit for saving my life.”

The father of two was sick but doctors didn’t know quite why.

“Night sweats, funny tickle, just exhausted,” recalled James. “I couldn’t get through the day without a sleep in the middle of the day kind of thing.”

It was the late summer of 2001 and a new and dangerous fungal disease, usually reserved for areas of the tropics, called Cryptococcus Gatti had just emerged on a warming east Vancouver Island. Airborne spores linked to a type of fungus had killed nine people so far and CHEK aired a cautionary story about symptoms to watch for.

“And as they were going through the symptoms I went tick, tick, tick,” said James.

He shared this with his doctor and a diagnosis soon followed, before the illness had a chance to spread to his brain and have fatal results.

“Without all those things falling into place I probably wouldn’t be here today,” said James. “I mean there are lots of people who didn’t survive the disease.”

James is featured on CBC’s The Nature of Things this Sunday (April 8), as a documentary called The Kingdom: How Fungi Made Our World explores fungi and the impact they have on us. Medical Health Officer for Central Vancouver Island Dr. Paul Hasselback says while Cryptococcus Gatti is still present in our environment, quicker diagnosis and treatment now mean less severe consequences for those who get it.

“I think when it first came out it shouldn’t have been here and that caused a lot of angst,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback. “As long as it’s on people’s minds, the physician or the healthcare worker that it’s a possibility they’ll provide the appropriate treatment.”


Skye RyanSkye Ryan

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!