A war veteran was almost killed by going to the gym after contracting a potentially fatal disease.
Grandfather-of-four Graham Leach, 68, came just “two hours from death” after breathing in the deadly Legionnaire’s Disease as he showered.
He was rushed to hospital wearing his Army medals and spent two weeks battling the severe form of pneumonia.
The former Corporal and retired engineer is now taking legal action against Tendring District Council who had only opened the leisure centre months earlier.
Graham said: “What actually annoys me more than anything is I go to the gym to get fit and end up a few months later more unfit and more unwell than when I started.
“I almost died and that’s quite a shock. I was less than two hours from death and I’ve lost two weeks of my life.
“If it was a person older and frailer than me or a youngster they could be dead now.
“It’s negligent but it’s also a failure in their duty of care for people using their building.”
After Graham fell ill in November, the Lifestyles gym in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, was closed for tests to be carried out.
The deadly Legionella bug was found to be present in the water supply, despite the newly-built complex only having been open for seven months.
Graham had been using the facility three-times a week and became infected while using the showers.
He soon began to feel ill but two days later on Remembrance Sunday, he lost consciousness – waking up in a hospital bed weeks later.
Graham said: “I had terrible headaches and profuse vomiting but it was the next day that I got up and got myself ready.
“It was a complete mystery, I had no idea what was wrong with me.
“The only thing I can remember about the two weeks when I was in hospital – I lost that as I was unconscious – I remember waking up with my brother-in-law Peter sitting down.
“A doctor told him, ‘he’s a lucky man, he was less than two hours from death’.”
He was given antibiotics via a hospital drip in his arm after the rare disease gave him pneumonia, blood sepsis and kidney failure.
Graham served with the Royal Engineering and Tank and Vehicle Support regiment during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, in Telford and in Germany from 1967 to 1980.
He has criticised the council for not apologising to him over the “completely avoidable” incident and said he would never use gym showers again.
Graham said: “I just cannot believe how it would happen in a new building, it doesn’t make sense.
“It’s negligent but it’s also a failure in their duty of care for people using their building.
“I just want them to say , ‘yes we were in the wrong and this should not have happened’.
“I’ve received nothing but I don’t expect to even receive an apology because an apology would be an admittance of guilt.
“It’s not accepting reality if that’s the right way to say it.”
The Lifestyles complex was reopened on February 24 after tests showed the Legionella bacteria was no longer present in the centre’s water supplies.
“They reopened the swimming pool and gymnasium on my birthday which I thought was rubbing salt in the wound,” Graham added.
The divorced father-of-one said solicitors at Irwin Mitchell have agreed to take on his civil claim for compensation against Tendring District Council.
Graham now lives alone in his modest two bedroom flat in Walton-in-the-Naze, Essex, and plans to use any compensation for “basic living for my years remaining”.
He was taken to hospital wearing his Northern Ireland medal and his father’s World War Two medal.
Charles Leach, who was a Corporal of Horse in the respected Cavalry Regiment of the Household Cavalry during the war, died of cancer in 1992.
A Tendring District Council spokesman said: “A wide range of modifications and improvements have been carried out at the site at Walton-on-the-Naze Lifestyles since the positive test was recorded.
“It then re-opened after a comprehensive series of legionella tests revealed negative results.
“It would be inappropriate for the Council to comment further at this time due to the pending legal action.”
The Legionella bacteria thrives in complex water systems kept between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius.
It can enter air conditioning systems and rapidly multiplies in showers, sprinkler systems and spas that are exposed to rust, algae or limescale.
NHS figures state 84 people died from the bug in England and Wales between 2011 and 2013.
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