The fungal disease valley fever is most common in dry, desert areas of California and Arizona, and diagnoses tend to spike after dust storms and dry, windy weather. What’s less common is more than one case of the disease in the same family. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we travel to a valley fever fundraiser in Bakersfield, where father-daughter pair Warren and Jessica Boone describe how they both contracted the disease while working for an oil company in Bakersfield.
“We both worked in an oilfield yard, and having to walk back and forth through the yard, we'd cough up dirt, and we just started coughing incessantly,” says Jessica Boone.
“They found the nodules in my left lung. I can't breathe, I have a lot of complications, I have chronic migraines, chronic fatigue, and I have anemia because of it. And it sucked because I had to stop [all my medications] when I was pregnant, and so the fear was passing it on to my daughter—which is a possibility, and now she's being tested.
“Sometimes I have really good days, sometimes I have days where I feel like I want to die. So it’s kind of hit or miss.
“Five people in our yard got it and two have passed because of complications to it.”
“So I was a forklift driver and I was driving around in the yard, moving pipe, and I was in the yard atmosphere all the time,” says Warren Boone. “So you’re breathing it in all the time. We’d wet the grounds to make sure that you wouldn’t breathe it in constantly, but it’s just a constant battle.
“When I first caught it I weighed 200 pounds and I dropped down to 116. And I looked like a stick man. But I gained my weight back. I feel a lot better but my lungs still hurt. You get that crackly poppy feeling in your lungs. It's just one of those things you’ve got to put up with."