Fight Of Her Life: Woman Battles Rare Disease

By KBJR Manager

February 4, 2011 Updated Feb 4, 2011 at 2:13 PM CDT

Grand Rapids, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - A Grand Rapids woman is fighting to take back her life, following a potentially deadly fungal infection that can mimic Pneumonia.

Blastomycosis does not respond to treatments used for Pneumonia. Her family is waging an all out war to educate others about Blasto, and the importance of early diagnosis.

What do I know about Blasto...I know it is evil I know it is out there...and ah its something that everyone should be aware of.

In December, David McNellis's wife Jennifer was hospitalized in Grand Rapids with what they thought was Pneumonia.

The active 26 year old mom's condition rapidly deteriorated and she was airlifted to Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth.
Infectious Disease expert Dr. Timothy Burke delivered the diagnoses; Blastomycosis.

We live in an area where blastomycosis...if I may use a medical term...is endemic...it means It's here.

Blastomycosis is caused by inhaling airborne spores into the lungs after contaminated soil is disturbed by activities such as excavation, construction or wood clearing.

Symptoms may include; fever, cough, cough with blood, shortness of breath, muscle aches, Bone, Back and or Chest Pain.
Symptoms including fatigue, weight loss and skin sores may also develop.

Before Jennifer contracted "Blasto" she experienced a difficult pregnancy and required bed rest.

Four month old baby Levi was born premature.

It is possible her immune system was compromised at the time of her exposure.

People with immuno compromising conditions...such as diabetes for instance tend to have more severe, more extensive disease...but we have had you know maybe mildly obese people without diabetes die from this.

Dr. Burke sees about a dozen cases of Blastomycosis each year.
Anti–fungal treatment is usually continued for six months and recovery is usually complete.

But Jennifer's case was complicated.

The Blasto attacked her brain and she was placed in a medically induced coma.

On the verge of death in December...Jennifer has now begun her recovery.

The effects of Blasto have taken a significant toll on Jennifer...her family asked us not to video tape her present condition.
But they want us to share her story.

She's a fighter, there's no doubt about that...you can see the stubbornness ...see the unhappiness when she doesn't really want to do what she needs to do...but she is a fighter....there's no doubt.

Jennifer is now a patient of Essentia's Miller Dwan Rehabilitation Services.

It's a miracle of God... that she is here for one thing...and that she has fought her way through the Blasto attack of her brain. The Doctors say there is no other scientific reason for it...God Created a Miracle.

Jennifer's family also credits her Essentia medical team who they say are phenomenal...and the unending support of their community.

On Saturday a Spaghetti Fundraiser will be held for Jennifer in Grand Rapids at the Moose Club.

The event will take place from 11 a.m. until six p.m.

Tickets will be sold at the door.