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Victim of 2022 Legionella outbreak in Orillia 'not the same'

'I certainly was energetic and ambitious and always on the go before, but I’m not so much anymore,' says 75-year-old woman who wants to hear from others

A Wasaga Beach woman who contracted legionnaires’ disease during a 2022 outbreak in Orillia is looking to connect with other survivors after the illness dramatically affected her life.

Over two weekends in September 2022, Sharon Beamish was at Rotary Place, which was later confirmed to be the source of the Legionella outbreak that fall.

While there, she felt unusually cold and experienced aches and pains she said went away once she returned home.

“There was an aching pain and then, after I left and came home, I was fine,” the 75-year-old said. “The second week, I felt worse, but it was the same scenario: You came and you leave, and when you’re home, you’re fine.”

By early October, however, her condition continued to deteriorate, and she woke up one morning on her bedroom floor, unable to move.

“I couldn’t get myself up off the floor,” she said. “I finally got my phone and then called my daughter.”

By the time her children arrived to help her, Beamish was extremely ill.

“I don’t remember the kids coming in, and my kids said to me when they saw me there, they thought I was dead already,” she said.

Her children called an ambulance, and Beamish said she does not remember the ride to the hospital.

She was in hospital from Oct. 4 to 14 and was given “all kinds of X-rays and MRIs” as health-care workers looked to determine her cause of illness.

She said she experienced difficulty breathing, aches and pains, weakness, and confusion over that time.

She said she received a call from the health unit three days after being discharged, informing her she had contracted legionnaires’ disease.

Although she survived the worst of the illness, Beamish said a number of symptoms have persisted to this day.

Where she was formerly independent and energetic, she said she found herself exhausted every day, having difficulty breathing, and needing to use a cane on occasion to steady herself.

“I certainly was energetic and ambitious and always on the go before, but I’m not so much anymore,” she said.

“Sometimes I just don’t feel strong enough to walk without the cane, and my breathing is shallow (and) horrible … I couldn’t walk even part of my street without being totally exhausted.”

After about a year, Beamish said she felt some of her symptoms improve, but the relief would be temporary.

“A lot of that is (still) going on now,” she said. “I had a bit of a break in there, where I thought I had a bit of energy, but that didn’t last long.”

She said her weakened state has profoundly affected her life.

“I’m definitely not the same person. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind,” she said.

Given the lengthy duration of these symptoms, Beamish wants to connect with other survivors to see if they have experienced anything similar. She hopes connecting with others will help confirm whether what she has been experiencing is related to her bout with legionnaires’ disease.

“Is this happening to me because of legionnaires’ or is it something else? That’s my main concern right now,” she said. “I don’t think the doctors know enough about it to say, ‘Yeah, that was part of it.’”

Beamish is not the only victim of the 2022 outbreak to have long-lasting health effects following a legionnaires’ diagnosis.

Orillia resident Joseph Brabant recently filed a $2.6-million lawsuit against the City of Orillia, with the claim alleging his “life expectancy has been significantly reduced as a result of his legionnaires’ disease.”

According to the claim, Brabant has continued to suffer “pain, depression, anxiety, lethargy, as well as decreased lung, heart and kidney function” following his illness, and his lawsuit is one of many that have been filed against the city following the outbreak.

While Beamish said her primary concern is connecting with others, she also expressed frustration with the City of Orillia. The city had already experienced a Legionella outbreak in 2019, which was also linked to Rotary Place.

“I wonder how they let it happen a second time at the same place. That just blows my mind. Why didn’t they get penalized the first time?” she asked.

“(If this is) all from legionnaires’, then the city has to take blame for that because I wasn’t like that before.”

Legionnaires’ disease survivors can connect with Beamish by reaching out to reporter Greg McGrath-Goudie at [email protected].

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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