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Woman shares Legionnaires’ story

A woman who contracted Legionnaire’s Disease that was traced to a Minnesota Hotel is sharing her experience of the disease.

Lori Haler was one of at least two people who were sickened by the bacteria linked to the Ramada Inn hot tub in Albert Lea in early July.

After spending more than a month at the Mayo Clinic, three months later, she is still recovering from her ordeal at her daughter’s house.

“This has been a nightmare to deal with, and everything that’s happened afterward is still going,” Haler said. “Nobody can tell me how long I’m not going to be able to work, or do things, or walk right because I walk with a walker right now. So, it’s been difficult.”

Initially, she thought she had COVID. With flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing, it was an easy mistake to make. But as her symptoms worsened, her family brought her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a different, also potentially deadly disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Legionnaire’s Disease is a rare form of pneumonia caused by a bacterium that lives in warm water and is known to thrive in improperly disinfected hot tubs. A person can contract the disease by breathing contaminated air.

After her family admitted her to the hospital, Haler woke up disoriented, not knowing where she was, and attempting to remove the tubes from her mouth that were keeping her alive.

Her health deteriorated dramatically before showing any signs of improvement.

“When I was in the hospital after I woke up, all the skin started peeling off my body,” Haler said. “I would peel it in like layers off my hand and stuff. It was all over my body like that, and my hair was falling out. I’ve got bald spots in my head from brushing my hair, and my hair just falls out. I’ve had kidney failure, septic shock. I’ve had dialysis. I have the scars on my neck. There are a lot of things that can happen when you do get Legionnaire’s.”

Originally from Alden, Minnesota, she was staying at the Albert Lea Ramada Inn while visiting her daughter and used the hot tub only days before becoming ill.

She says she hopes that anyone who owns a spa knows how to properly care for it to keep it safe for use.

“Make sure that you are following the guidelines, because this can come out of nowhere. We never expected this,” Haler said.

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