Hendra not only deadly
Relives the horror of contracting and miraculously surviving deadly hendra virus The diagnosis that changed life forever for one vet nurse
HENDRA is a little suburb in Brisbane where people are happily raising families, working and playing.
It is also where, in 1994, a virus started to kill horses then humans.
Back then prominent horse trainer Vic Rail died.
Horses caught the virus from flying foxes or from other horses.
The virus was spread to people who came into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected horse, and veterinary nurse Natalie Beohm was one victim.
“I never touched a horse, I didn’t help with the horse, I only did the clinical stuff, taking care of testing nasal secretions, bloods and alike,” she said.
“I wore proper gloves and a surgery mask when performing these simple tasks in Redlands Veterinary Clinic on Brisbane’s Bayside 2008. “I caught the virus. “One month later, my colleague and friend Dr Ben Cunneen died a day after I was released from hospital.”
Dr Cunneen’s wife found out that she was pregnant with their first child when Dr Cunneen, 33, was in a coma.
When she told him that she was pregnant he actually lifted an eyebrow.
Miss Beohm was 21 in June of that year.
In July strange things started to happen, horses were dropping dead with no logical signs and three horses were put down before the Department of Primary Industry was called in.
“We were all tested, we all were negative,” Ms Beohm said.
“One day after, I started getting flu-like symptoms, body aching and I knew I was sick.
“Life was great I was about to finish my nursing course and I was heading just where I wanted, but I thought I should get tested again so I went back to the DPI and they sent me to hospital.
“When I said ‘hendra’, no one wanted to touch me, just looked through a window at me.
“They just told me I had the flu and sent me home.”
The next morning she received a call to say she had tested positive for hendra.
“My temperature was 40, I didn’t know what was happening,” she said.
“In an isolation room my temperature was so high that you could have cooked an egg on my face but I was freezing, fluid on the brain.
“I couldn’t move my fingers, I couldn’t walk, talk, shower myself. I was in hospital for six weeks and still didn’t remember what happened.”
Every day Miss Beohm’s parents would go home hoping she would make it through the night.
The doctor had no treatment and told them if she lived through the night they would try to get her through until lunch.
“Six years on I look nice on the outside now but inside everything is going wrong and there’s nothing I can do to fix it,” Ms Beohm said.
“I am told it (the virus) may be dormant my spine and or brain.
“(The) hardest part is that my life has fully changed it will never go back to what it was before.”