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Doctors Refused to Test for Valley Fever: Colette Kitlas, 54, Davis

"I hope you never get this. I would never wish this for anyone," says Colette Kitlas, who was repeatedly misdiagnosed.

I got valley fever in Davis, Calif., in October 1999. At that time, many doctors in the area didn’t seem to know about it at all; they just thought it was something down in Arizona that didn’t exist here. But I didn’t travel to any other parts of the valley; I contracted the illness right here in Davis. I’m not sure how I got it, but I live behind a dirt track, I work in the garden and there’s a lot of agriculture.

The disease hit me first with respiratory symptoms. The glands in my neck swelled so large it was like I no longer had a neck. That put pressure on the inner ear so I experienced severe vertigo. I went to the emergency room, and they said I had an inner ear virus. I was so weak that I could barely get out of bed to the bathroom. I was in and out of doctors’ offices. I was diagnosed as having asthma, influenza, a viral infection. I never had a fever, though. I was pretty much bed ridden for four months. I experienced dizziness and extreme fatigue. I felt as if I was having an asthma attack yet I could still breathe.

It impacted my family, too. I could not get involved with my teenage son; I couldn’t even cook meals -- I was too weak. After about a year, a friend of my husband’s said his wife, who lived in Sacramento had something called valley fever. I did all kinds of reading and research. I called the Center for Valley Fever in Arizona. A doctor got on the phone with me and talked to me for an hour and a half, asking me all kinds of questions over the phone. He said: ‘You sound like you definitely have valley fever.’

He gave me information on valley fever testing, but my doctor said it was ridiculous. So I got ignored. Eventually, though, I got tested and diagnosed, and I did have valley fever. It took me 2.5 years to completely recover from all that. It was scary: I thought I was going crazy. Doctors thought I was exaggerating my symptoms. After I finally recovered, I kept telling people: I hope you never get this. I would never wish this for anyone.

Hopefully, some day many more doctors will be informed of valley fever and its seriousness. In this way, maybe others will not have to suffer needlessly.

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