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‘Joe’ passes 2 weeks after cleaning up flooded Murray’s Village

‘Joe’ passes 2 weeks after cleaning up flooded Murray’s Village


A simple pair of water boots may have saved Reynold “Joe” Gurley’s life.{{more}}

Gurley, a 47-year-old, former resident of Murray’s Village, died suddenly on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

Gurley’s death certificate says he died from septicaemia and suspected viral bacterial illness.

SEARCHLIGHT had spoken with Gurley only two weeks earlier (Wednesday, August 3), as he was on site clearing a blocked drain from mud and debris, after a landslide in Murray’s Village on Tuesday, August 2.

“I could not believe, I was in shock,” Gurley’s niece Janice Horne said, from the living room of a relative’s home in Murray’s Village. Gurley’s sister Marilyn, seated nearby, remained quiet for some time.

Horne said that she had heard from a relative that Gurley had been cleaning the drain after the landslide in the area and on Sunday, August 14, 2011, he had complained of chest pain and a headache and was taken to the hospital. He died early Wednesday morning.

Horne believes that Gurley’s death had something to do with the contact he made with the mud and debris from the landslide just weeks before. She added that she was told that the mud was very smelly.

“Everybody when they saw him cleaning it, they asked themselves why did he chose to clear the gutter,” she said, adding that when every one heard of his death, they immediately said it was caused by Gurley’s contact with the mud and debris.

Gurley’s sister, speaking up, told SEARCHLIGHT that a month prior, Gurley had been treated for an abscess on the sole of his foot. She stated that he had been taken to the hospital and they had cut open the abscess. Stating that he had “bad flesh”, she was of the opinion that that may have contributed to him contracting an infection.

According to Dr. Jose Davy, a general medical practitioner with a Master’s degree in Infectious Diseases, septicaemia is an infection in the blood. She added that this illness can lead to organ failure, mostly in the liver and kidneys and once they shut down, the person will die.

“It’s very hard to live after that, because your kidneys and your liver are the ones responsible for detoxifying your body as in getting rid of the waste from the body,” she said.

Gurley’s sister said that his doctor told her that soon after he was admitted to the hospital, the organs of his body shut down.

Dr. Davy said that a person can get septicaemia from any infection, whether a virus or bacteria. An example of a viral infection, Davy said, is dengue; an example of a bacterial infection is leptospirosis.

Leptospirosis, caused by the bacteria Leptospira, is characterized by muscle pain, fever, and problems with the kidney and liver. Davy added that a disease such as leptospirosis is notorious for entering broken skin. Leptospirosis is spread usually by the urine of infected animals, such as rats, and generally not spread by person to person.

Davy stated that symptoms such as headaches and coughing are characteristic of viral infections. “All the headaches, the cough, the runny nose, all those are typical of viral infections, most of the time.”

Davy added that once the bacteria or virus enters the blood, it can lead to septicaemia.

“If your immune system is not defending you well at that point, it’s not able to control the infection then it can lead to septicemia,” Davy said.

She added that Gurley’s exposure to the elements may have led to his infection.

When SEARCHLIGHT spoke to Gurley earlier this month, he stated that he was cleaning the drains on behalf of a named government agency. He was barefoot and using a shovel to clear the mud and debris from the drain.

Davy added that if Gurley’s abscess had not healed completely, that area of his foot would have been an access point for the infection to enter the body. Had there not been a previous broken surface of skin, Gurley could have become ill otherwise.

“When you’re doing work like that, you can actually cut yourself without knowing and that’s a point of entry (for bacteria). That is why strict preventative measures must be upheld. It was soggy…so you have your water-borne diseases coming in there ….And there is direct contact with contagious material…but he could’ve gotten some other illness by not protecting himself well,” she stated.

When asked how long after exposure do symptoms develop, Davy stated that the incubation

period, which is the period between infection and the appearance of signs of a disease, differs for every type of disease.

“The infections all have different incubation (periods). The average is around 3-7 days; there are some that have incubation up to 14 weeks, and there are some like the HINI flu that has incubation in a period of hours. It’s really dependent on the particular agent we are talking about,” Dr. Davy said.

She added that survival rates of victims are hard to predict, as it depends on how soon they were treated, or the strength of the person’s immune system. She added that septicaemia in most cases is fatal.

She said in Gurley’s case, a pair of boots and gloves could have made a great difference and may have even saved his life.

Dr. Davy added that persons should take other necessary precautions to protect themselves from infections, such as washing hands after sneezing and coughing and before preparing meals.

Gurley leaves behind six children, the youngest just a year old. Marilyn described her brother as a very loving person and that he was always a good brother to her.

She added that she received $600 from the Government agency for Gurley’s payment for the job he was doing, but, however, expected to receive more, as compensation for the death of her brother.

Gurley’s funeral is scheduled for Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at the Revival Centre in Murray’s Village.