Buffalo, NY - Olympic eventing bronze medalist and Pan American Games gold medalist Darren Chiacchia, 48, was admitted to the hospital last week. He has been diagnosed with fungal meningitis, a rare and potentially deadly infection. Additionally, on Monday of this week, Darren 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 and anti-fungal medications used to fight it often lead to long term kidney and liver damage. Fungal meningitis infects the body's spinal fluid and the delicate membrane between the brain and the skull.
Chiacchia competed successfully at the CIC*** Plantation Field Horse Trials in late September despite feeling ill with nausea and severe headache. He survived a near-fatal traumatic brain injury after falling with his horse during a competition in 2008. Chiacchia commented during the Plantation Field competition that the sheer weight of his protective riding helmet was almost more than he could bear.
Due to his illness, Chiacchia will not be competing at the prestigious Fair Hill International CCI*** in Elkton, MD this weekend.
Chiacchia's Business Manager Ann Clements of Wellington, FL, said today, "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. He is in constant and terrible pain and we are all holding steady vigil while we keep his farms in Ocala, FL and Springville, NY running smoothly.”
Due to the serious nature of his illness, Chiacchia is not 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.