Grandmother has ‘mental scars’ after spending days in coma with Legionnaires’ contracted while working at factory

Faltec Europe Ltd
Faltec Europe Ltd

A grandmother who battled for her life in a coma after contracting Legionnaires’ disease at a factory still subject to a safety probe says the ‘mental scars’ still remain from her ordeal.

The woman, from Hebburn, was struck down by the potentially fatal bug while working in Faltec Europe Limited, based in Boldon Business Park, last October.

I have never had an apology.

Former Faltec worker

She spent ten days in a coma and has not felt able to return to work since.

Three further workers and a resident whose garden overlooks the factory were diagnosed with the condition in April and May of this year.

All have since been discharged from hospital.

A health probe at the factory was launched by Public Health England, South Tyneside Council and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the wake of the bug outbreak.

The HSE imposed a prohibition notice on the firm in June, forcing them to shut four cooling towers after significant levels of the potentially-lethal bacteria were found on site.

Bosses at Faltec Europe have been using two chiller units on site to seal in cool water used in factory processes to prevent a risk of further infection since the safety notice was put in place.

Sampling of the water systems identified the presence of significant quantities of the legionella bacteria.

Bosses must satisfy experts at the HSE that there is no threat of further infection before the cooling towers can be brought back into use and the prohibition notice lifted.

The notice has now been in place for two months.

The woman, who was employed as an agency worker at the firm for four years, is ‘disgusted’ that she has never been contacted by bosses at the factory over her plight.

She said: “I’m disgusted that nobody has been in contact with me. I have never had an apology.

“It was something of a relief to find that the factory was the source of the bug, as at the time I didn’t know if it come from my house.

“My hair thinned quite a lot while I was in a coma and it is growing back now, but I don’t feel ready to go back yet.

“I am hoping I might feel able to get back to work in a couple of months.

“You never expect to be in work one day and then end up in hospital.

“I am too scared to go back to the factory. I still feel paranoid about it. I worry I might catch the bug again. The mental scars are still there.

“Thankfully nobody else has contracted the condition in the last few months.”

The potentially-fatal lung condition does not spread from person to person, only via contaminated water droplets.