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03/11/2013

Near death by bagpipe

Bagpipes
(Source: www.bagpipes.co.uk)

Beware the dangers that lurk deep inside the bagpipe.

Today via ProMed-Mail, I read about the case of 77-year-old John Shone, an expert classical bagpiper from Wiltshire, England. While preparing for an upcoming performance, Shone fell sick and was hospitalized for four weeks with a near-fatal lung infection.

Doctors were stumped by what was sickening Shone, who found himself "extremely tired and slowly fading away," according to The Scotsman. But then a consultant questioned him about his hobbies -- and discovered his love of Highland music.

Shone's son fetched his bagpipe and pathologists discovered "a heavy growth of fungal cultures lurking inside," The Scotsman reports -- and the spores were being inhaled by Shone as he practised. Having finally identified the culprit making Shone sick, his doctors were then able to prescribe him medication that worked.

According to Shone -- who is now recovering but about 14 pounds lighter -- he had neglected to clean out his bagpipes for about 18 months.

His experience has led the Piping Times -- considered the "bible of the bagpiping world, according to The Scotsman -- to issue a warning about the potential perils of dirty pipes.

As for Shone, he is now back to playing his favourite instrument -- and, presumably, improving his bagpipe hygiene habits.

Jennifer Yang is the Toronto Star’s global health reporter. She previously worked as a general assignment reporter and won a NNA in 2011 for her explanatory piece on the Chilean mining disaster. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar

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As a preventative -- always drink 6 oz. of scotch before playing the bagpipes. All Scots are taught this from an early age.

A great and useful discovery which will probably help other bag pipers from the same medical problem.

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