One hot July morning, Daniel Reginiano put on his running shoes for his daily ritual - a power walk, close to his home in Marsaxlokk.

A few days later, he started feeling the shivers and his head was throbbing as his body temperature soared to hazardous levels.

Before he could establish what had hit him, Mr Reginiano fell unconscious and was rushed to hospital. Three weeks later he was woken up by doctors to be given the news - he had contracted typhus.

Typhus is an acute, infectious disease caused by parasites which breed over rats and mice.

Antibiotics are available to treat the condition if diagnosed at once but doctors say that Mr Reginiano's was one of the most serious cases of typhus ever contracted in Malta.

"I still cannot fathom how one can end up in this state from a single flea bite," he told The Times from his hospital bed in St Luke's Hospital, where he has been confined for the past five weeks.

It is even more surprising considering that a health freak like him could succumb to such an illness.

He starts off his day with a big mug of freshly blended fruit juice, followed by a three-mile walk. He has an aversion to fried or fatty foods, opting instead for seafood and vegetables.

He claims he hardly ever got sick in the last nine years. He admits to popping just two headache pills in a year and has only been hospitalised once for a leg fracture.

This clean bill of health changed when Mr Reginiano recalled jogging past a dead rat - over a foot long - during his route that particular week. He never gave it a second thought but some days later he started feeling uncomfortable, ran a high fever and suffered from intense headache.

At first he thought it was a severe bout of food poisoning and went to see the doctor who immediately realised it was not as simple as that. A series of blood tests were taken to try and detect what was wrong. But it was too late.

The last thing Mr Reginiano remembers is crashing out on his bed one Saturday afternoon, feeling utterly exhausted. Mr Reginiano, who lives on his own, remained conked out for 48 hours during which the virus had a field day spreading.

On Monday, realising that Mr Reginiano had overslept, his housekeeper, Stella, walked into his bedroom to find him out of his senses. His lips very dry, Mr Reginiano was staring into thin air, unconscious. Realising that something was drastically wrong she innocently blended a fruit drink in an attempt to revive him - but to no avail.

She frantically called the ambulance and he was rushed to intensive care.

For five days, doctors and specialists worked around the clock to try and identify the source of his illness.

They finally diagnosed typhus which had spread to such an extent that it caused complete acute renal failure and central nervous system damage with an inflammation of the brain, which triggered off convulsions.

Day and night his family stood by his bed clinging on to hope as he hovered between life and death. But after an intense course of medication, they were relieved to hear that the doctors would be resuscitating him.

"I didn't know whether it was a dream or not. I woke up and found my body attached to several pipes. I went into frenzy. I wanted to pull everything out and run.

"I remember telling Stella as soon as I came back to my senses 'if this is for real take me to Dingli Cliffs and throw me over'."

His surroundings could not have been more alien to him. He hates injections and his arm was dotted with syringe marks. He cannot stand wearing polyester clothing and he was covered from head to toe in plastic.

Asked for his reaction when he learnt he had contracted typhus, a virus actually reminiscent of world wars, Mr Reginiano replied:

"I was shocked, of course, but I was sad that you can be fit but still die in an instant.

"I did not abuse anything or stuff my face with greasy pork chops. I did not crash my car at 200 miles an hour. I was not showing off. I was simply walking. It happened because I wasn't aware that this virus even existed. If I knew about the potential danger I would have called the Health Department at once."

His path to recovery has been like "snakes and ladders". One day he feels he could walk out of hospital and the next he wakes up feeling helpless.

The subsequent pain was not unbearable but his muscles often felt like jelly. The most excruciating pain he has had to endure was the thrombosis which temporarily afflicted his legs.

He knows that, ultimately, it was the skill of doctors and nurses at St Luke's Hospital that saw him through his trauma.

"They worked with so much heart. It made all the difference."

As he rearranged his pillow, comforted to know he will be discharged from hospital today, he remarked: "I will definitely continue jogging. But I will definitely be more aware of what's lurking around."

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us