‘Thought it was a virus’: Waterfall hike turns to horror

A STUNNING hike to a secret Far North waterfall turned into a nightmare for a Cairns dad after he contracted leptospirosis, was rushed to hospital and almost fell into a coma.

Redlynch father of two Steven Dangaard thought he just had a mild virus last Tuesday and decided to tough it out when he was unable to get into a GP.

But his condition deteriorated to the point where he began vomiting blood and could barely move, with his mother driving him to Cairns Hospital on Saturday.

He spent four days in hospital hooked up to intravenous antibiotics recovering from the waterborne disease, which he believed he contracted during a hike near Mount Bartle Frere about three weeks ago.

"I just sort of weathered it, thinking it was a virus," he said. "And then on Saturday I couldn't walk, I was vomiting blood, aches and pains, high temp ... so Mum rushed me down to the hospital.

"We got to ED and they rushed me straight through."

Mr Dangaard said he was with two friends on the hike through the Wooroonooran National Park, but while they both wore leg protection he made the mistake of deciding to forgo it.

The trio are all experienced hikers and Mr Dangaard runs popular Facebook group Cairns Hiking - Come and Explore.

Redlynch man Steven Dangaard contracted leptospirosis after a hike near Bartle Frere. Picture: Reuben Nutt
Redlynch man Steven Dangaard contracted leptospirosis after a hike near Bartle Frere. Picture: Reuben Nutt

One of the trio, Reuben Nutt, is a professional photographer who captured stunning images of the trek.

"Because it was hot I just thought 'I'll just wear shorts' so my legs are getting cut up by wait-a-while and then I was trudging through mud and creeks and water and there would have been infected soil that go into the cuts," Mr Dangaard said. "I do own gaiters, but I just made that critical error of not wearing them.

"I always wear gloves to protect from wait-a-while scratches, but in the future I'll definitely be wearing leg protection."

Redlynch man Steven Dangaard contracted leptospirosis after a hike near Bartle Frere. Picture: Reuben Nutt
Redlynch man Steven Dangaard contracted leptospirosis after a hike near Bartle Frere. Picture: Reuben Nutt

The chief financial officer said it was the sickest he had ever been.

"But I was very lucky I went in (to hospital) when I did, because I probably could have been one of those people in ICU if I had have left it for another 24 or 48 hours," he said.

The passionate hiker hopes to return to the trails soon, despite protests from his partner Amy Dati, but said he would be rigorous about leg protection on future expeditions.

He is among 25 people who have contracted the disease in the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service region so far this year, with most being on the Cassowary Coast and Tablelands.

Originally published as 'Thought it was a virus': Waterfall hike turns to horror for Cairns dad



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