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Death prompts potting mix alert
The West Australian

The distraught husband of a Collie woman who died last month from legionnaires' disease has urged West Australians to be careful when handling potting mix.

Mother-of-two Sharon Camisa had just celebrated her 42nd birthday on December 3 when she suddenly fell seriously ill.

She was taken to Bunbury Hospital with what doctors believed to be pneumonia.

She was placed in an induced coma and airlifted to Perth on December 16, her son's birthday.

Mark Camisa, 42, her high-school sweetheart and husband of 25 years, fought back tears as he recalled her last waking moments.

"She looked at me and said, 'I'm scared'," Mr Camisa said.

"I said, 'OK, sweetheart we'll get through this, you'll be fine'.

"I watched them wheel her down the corridor and that was the last time I saw her awake.

"Everybody who met Sharon fell in love with her.

"She was just a good-natured person and would do anything for anybody.

"She was a devoted wife, a devoted mother and a devoted grandmother."

A blood culture test at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital later revealed she had contracted a strain of legionnaires' disease linked to potting mix.

She died on January 14 after complications on the operating table.

Mr Camisa believes his wife was infected when she was re-potting plants ahead of their Christmas party.

He said although she always wore gloves when gardening, she never wore a mask.

In the wake of her death, Mr Camisa, his daughter and his wife's best friend are determined to raise awareness about the dangers of handling dry potting mix.

"Every bag of potting mix has warnings on it - some will just say microorganisms and others will go as far as saying legionella," Mr Camisa said.

"My problem is that it's all in the same writing.

"I think the warning needs to stand out.

"I think the masks could be sold with the potting mix, whether they're with the bags or at the checkout.

"Not everybody's going to catch legionnaires', but it does happen and if you're elderly or you have a weak immune system, you're more susceptible." 'I think the masks could be sold with the potting mix.' " Mark Camisa