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Oregon; A man's fungal infection ends in death   PDF  Print  E-mail 
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Thursday, 13 January 2005

By Rick Osborn, For The World

OREGON-A Coos Bay man's lifelong battle with a rare disease ended
Sunday morning.

Brian Baldock, a well-known figure in Marshfield High School
athletics, died of a fungal infection at approximately 9:45 a.m.
Sunday at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland. He was

Baldock, who worked for nearly 14 years as the trainer for
Marshfield's football program, was born with chronic granulomatous
disease, a condition in which the white blood cells that fight
bacterial and fungal infections are missing the enzymes that make
them effective.

Baldock's infection, caused by the common fungus Aspergillus,
started in his lungs and rapidly spread into his ribs and spine. It
was the same infection he suffered in 1993, when part of his lung
and some of his ribs were removed.

"It had just spread too much to do that (surgery) now," Marlene
Baldock, Brian's mother, said Tuesday. "He was too weak to survive a
surgery like that."

Aspergillus is found in the soil as well as in decomposing plant
matter, household dust and building material.

"It's everywhere," Marlene said. "It's in us, around us and normal
people can fight it. It's a terrible infection; very hard to kill."

Baldock had been in the hospital several times over the last few

"He had an infection that just spread so rapidly and through so much
of his body we knew he probably wasn't going to make it out of the
hospital this time," Marlene said. "In the end he just went pretty

The doctor told Marlene and Jerry Baldock, Brian's father, on Friday
that their son wasn't going to make it and the infection was
incurable. Jerry, Marlene, Brian's girlfriend Kayla Schmidt and her
mother were with him when the doctor broke the news.

What the doctor had to say was a sharp contrast from what Baldock's
loved ones told him his entire life.

"That was probably the hardest part of all was just having to tell
Brian," Marlene said. "We've never thought that way. We've always
had hope, just lots of hope, that he would get through this."

The family always had believed Baldock would live to see a cure. He
participated in a protocol program with National Institutes of
Health in Washington, D.C., to help find a remedy for his particular

Baldock, Marlene indicated, was just as courageous at the end as he
was his entire life.

"He was scared; he knew," Marlene said. "Things just kept
progressing and he couldn't stay ahead of the game. Of course every
time he got sick over the years, it took a little bit out of him."

Last weekend, Baldock had fought as hard and as long as he could.

"He just didn't have the strength to fight it any more, but he never
gave up," Marlene said. "He never gave up."

Marshfield football coach Kent Wigle said Baldock was a veteran
trainer who began working with the Pirates in 1991 as a high school

"Essentially he's been helping us in some capacity since then,"
Wigle said. "That whole time he was fighting for existence."

Wigle described Baldock as the perennial team player who always
wanted to see the organization be successful.

Baldock was more than a trainer to the hundreds of Pirate football
players who passed through the program in the last 14 years. Many
players called him "coach" and heeded his advice about how they
should conduct themselves on the football field and in life. Baldock
formed close bonds with many athletes over the years.

"A lot of young men have learned a great deal by seeing all the
trials and tribulations he went through in his life," Wigle
said. "He touched a lot of lives. I'm including players and coaches
in that."

Baldock was surrounded by close friends - mostly from his 1995
senior class at Marshfield - right up until the end. Most of his
closest friends were involved with Pirate football in their high
school years.

CGD patients can fight viral infections, but are susceptible to
staphylococcal and other infections. An average person gets sick
once out of 50 exposures to bacteria or fungus. For a CGD patient,
it takes just two or three exposures.

Baldock was one of only about 648 people in the world registered
with the disease, and the only one in Oregon. Initially, Baldock
wasn't expected to reach age 5. Then the estimate became 10; then 20.

But the man who stood about 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed about
100 pounds made a life out of defying the odds.

He was hooked up to oxygen for the past few years and underwent
dialysis treatments regularly to make up for his kidneys, which were
destroyed by the anti-fungal medication he took for most of his life.

Even in their grief, Baldock's family and those who knew him best
say they are relieved in a sense that Baldock's pain and suffering
has ended.

"A person can only take so much and he took a lot," Marlene
said. "He had so many friends and he just loved the kids at the high
school. We think all in all, in spite of what he went through, he
had a high quality life."

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