My Valley, My Story: Valley Fever After Decades Of Dust

Nov 22, 2016

The fungal disease can afflict individuals of any age and ethnic group—even those who have lived and worked in the valley for decades. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we travel to the annual Valley Fever Walk in Bakersfield, where a 54-year-old Kern County man shares his story of overcoming the disease.  

"My name is James Taplin. I was diagnosed in 2010 and, like many others, I thought I had pneumonia, but I went to my primary physician who thought I was having a heart attack. I ended up in Bakersfield Heart Hospital where they diagnosed me pretty much immediately--and I'm of the firm belief that it saved my life.

"I was in the hospital nearly a month, and it took me a year to heal. Maybe not completely, but almost get there. I actually initially got worse. I went through the whole thing: I bottomed out, and resuscitation, and all those things that people don't really like to talk about. When I got out of the hospital I could not literally open a bottle of water. I just had no strength.

"I feel like it was a blessing that I was able to come back.

Credit Kerry Klein/KVPR

I'm an environmental engineer, so I work a lot in the oilfields. They told me that I had it and I thought, 'I've been here all my life.' I knew what it was, but I couldn't have even told you it was a fungus disease. Other people got it--that's just what I knew.

"But I think it was part of work and working in the fields and dust. And that's why I try to share what I went through. Most people don't go through what I went through but I probably would have tried to find something else to do.

"I'm fortunate to be here but the trade-off could've been not worth it."