A Falklands War veteran who collapsed at Burnley’s Remembrance Sunday service is lucky to be alive after being struck down with an extremely rare virus.
Mr Michael Sandon (56) had been infected with West Nile virus, contracted from a mosquito bite while working in Canada in October.
But it was only after his friends at veterans help group Salute, who discovered there had been an outbreak of the virus, alerted doctors, that they were able to treat Mr Sandon who was in intensive care at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
The electrical engineer, who receives help from Salute for post traumatic stress disorder, now has no recollection of his two-week visit to the country.
He said: “The whole event has been scary and unreal, and but for a number of very kind people I might not be here now.
“It turns out I am the only third person in the UK to suffer from this since 2002.
“I had already been unwell for around 18 months, with PTSD and depression, which Salute had been helping me with. It seems a combination of this caused me to collapse.
“I cannot remember anything from my visit to Canada. I only know because of the existence of travel tickets and receipts.
“I would like to thank Danny Hutchinson from Salute who researched the condition and suggested to the hospital doctors to test for it.
“I am also very grateful to whichever Good Samaritan found me collapsed near to the Cenotaph and PC Sessions for accompanying me to the hospital.”
Mr Sandon, who lives in Cliviger, served in the Royal Navy from 1973 to 1997 and was on board the frigate HMS Antelope when it was seriously damaged following an air attack during the Falklands conflict.
He added: “I want for my own peace of mind to personally thank whoever found me following my collapse.
“I am still exhausted and confused but at least I’m alive. My employers have been excellent and said to only come back when I’m ready.”
Mr Hutchinson, the chairman of Salute, said: “It was a pure stroke of luck that we discovered what was affecting Michael.
“Michael has been coming to us for a while now, and one of our members commented they had seen him at the remembrance service looking a bit unwell.
“We decided to do a home visit and found he wasn’t there. The police told us he had been taken to hospital so I rang his boss to tell him.
“He said Michael had recently been to Canada so on the off-chance
I looked on a Canadian health website and discovered there had been a recent outbreak of this virus.
“Michael was still in a bad way in intensive care so I suggested to the doctors to test for it or for legionnaires disease.
“We visited him every day and were told by a doctor he had tested positive for this West Nile virus. He then seemed to make a remarkable recovery. We are just pleased he is now on the mend.”
In 2012, West Nile virus killed 286 people in the United States according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.