Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

August 28, 2013

Man nearly dies from tropical diseases

Adventurer contracts malaria, dengue at same time

VALDOSTA — When international businessman and adventurer Tony Kincaid arrived at the hospital in March of this year, he didn’t know it but he was close to death. A strong, healthy man in his prime, Kincaid was slowly succumbing to the effects of not one, but two tropical diseases  — dengue and malaria.

Kincaid had been traveling non-stop since returning to the U.S. from South America, and was working temporarily in Louisiana. He flew to Oregon where he began feeling ill, but felt good enough to fly to Denver, Colo., for a meeting. He almost checked into a hospital there, but instead, he flew back to Louisiana, got in his car and drove the hundreds of miles to his home in Nashville, Ga.

Less than 24 hours later, he was in South Georgia Medical Center, being treated by Dr. Willy Saurina, an infectious disease specialist who is one of the rare physicians with experience treating mosquito-borne illnesses.

“By the time that I saw him, he was nearly dead. If he was old or had any type of other ailment, this would have killed him, but because he is strong and healthy, he was able to recover from the infections,” Saurina said.

Kincaid believes that God was with him, guiding him home to be with his family and to be treated by Dr. Saurina.

“If I had gone to the hospital in Denver, I might not be here today,” said Kincaid.

Cases of dengue and malaria are very rare in the U.S., with fewer than 1,500 cases reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly all of those infected contract the disease while traveling overseas, and to contract both simultaneously is extremely rare.

In the last 12 years since moving to Valdosta, Saurina has seen less than a dozen dengue and malaria cases, but enough to know the symptoms and best course of treatment.

“It was so bad, the malaria had spread to his brain. Cerebral malaria can kill you, but I was able to diagnose him quickly as he had one of the classic symptoms. One minute he’d be coherent and the next he’d be confused, and with cerebral malaria, abnormal behavior is common,” said Saurina.

Kincaid said the diseases were wreaking havoc on his mind as well as his body.

“It attacks your body but it also attacks your emotions. It gives you a wild perspective. One minute I was fine and the next, I wasn’t sure where I was,” he said.

Kincaid spent nine days in SGMC receiving heavy doses of antibiotics. At one point, Dr. Saurina told him he was famous.

“He told me, ‘They love your blood in the lab,’ because most of them hadn’t seen this before and they were using my blood as a teaching tool.”

Kincaid attributes his recovery “to God, my wife, Dr. Garcia (whom he sought medical help from initially), Dr. Saurina, the interns and nurses and Ms. Sandra, a beautiful nurse who helped me recover.”

Although Kincaid’s nearly fatal brush with death from mosquito bites is a sensational story, the story of how he came to be infected is even more so. He is a minerals miner, and was in Guyana in South America mining for diamonds and gold.

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