Eventer Darren Chiacchia, 48, was admitted to the hospital last week with fungal meningitis, a rare and potentially deadly infection. Additionally, on Oct. 8, Chiacchia developed MRSA, a virulent staph infection commonly contracted in hospitals.
This meningitis is spreading across the United States as more and more people are exposed to tainted steroid pain injections. The injections were distributed by a Massachusetts compounding lab. This type of meningitis can also be acquired through routine work on a farm, as the type of fungus, aspergillum, is commonly found in soil samples. The symptoms of fungal meningitis include high fever, nausea, stiff neck, excruciating headache and sensitivity to light and noise.
This type of meningitis is extremely serious. Fungal meningitis infects the body’s spinal fluid and the delicate membrane between the brain and the skull.
Chiacchia, who rode on the bronze-medal winning team at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and the gold-medal winning team at the 2003 Pan American Games (Md.), competed successfully at the Plantation Field Horse Trials International CIC*** (Pa.) in late September despite feeling ill with nausea and severe headache.
Because of his illness, Chiacchia won’t be competing at the Fair Hill International CCI*** in Elkton, Md., later this month.
"Darren is an incredibly strong man, both physically and mentally, and his family and friends are praying that he will fight this awful illness successfully,” said Chiacchia's business manager Ann Clements of Wellington, Fla. “He is in constant and terrible pain, and we are all holding steady vigil while we keep his farms in Ocala, Fla., and Springville, N.Y., running smoothly.”
Due to the serious nature of his illness, Chiacchia isn’t permitted visitors other than family. His family is maintaining a vigil at his side. Friends and fans are urged to keep updated on Chiacchia's fan page on Facebook.