Fundraiser set after illness lays College Place man low

Dorlin Haste, owner of Digger D Excavating, was diagnosed with a rare fungal illness in the spring.

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COLLEGE PLACE -- Dorlin Haste is home.

The owner of Digger D Excavating, who was struck in late May with an illness known as Valley fever, was able to leave the University of Washington Medical Center in late July, his wife, Judy Haste, said.

Home, but still a long way from healthy, she added. Dorlin Haste, 58, is on dialysis while the couple waits to see what level of kidney function and overall recovery he will obtain. He's dropped 45 pounds off his normal weight of 188 pounds since becoming ill, Judy Haste said. "He has had a difficult time taking in the necessary calories to regain any of the lost weight, so on Tuesday he had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach."

That means tube-fed, high-calorie supplement meals through until her husband is able to regain some of the lost weight, she added.

A benefit fundraiser is being planned for Sunday to help with the multiple expenses incurred by the illness.

This journey began with some unexplained symptoms that landed Haste in Providence St. Mary Medical Center. On June 2, his condition had worsened enough to get him life-flighted to Seattle, where health officials puzzled over just what was going on.

Valley fever -- formally known as coccidiodomycosis -- is a fungal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The microscopic organisms that cause it live in the soil of semiarid areas; the fever is endemic to the Southwest, parts of Mexico and South America. It can be inhaled after that soil is disturbed, the CDC said.

While half of those exposed develop no symptoms, the other half can experience varying degrees of illness, including central nervous system infection, severe respiratory distress, skin lesions and death.

At the time of Haste's Seattle hospitalization, health officials considered the disease to seldom found in Eastern Washington. Most patients are people who live in or visit places where the fungus is in the soil. Many also engage in activities that expose them to dust, such as construction, agricultural work, military field training and archeological exploration, experts say.

However, Haste -- who excavates dirt for a living -- grew up in the Walla Walla Valley and had not been out of the area for years.

Because of her husband's illness, health officials are revisiting similar cases that had been ruled as "undetermined cause," Judy said. "They were in a gray area. Now they are saying there are confirmed cases in the Northwest."

There is no way of pinning down just where Dorlin contracted Valley Fever in his work, she added. "It's the Walla Walla Valley. We were all over."

He hopes to return to work as soon as possible. Not only because Dorlin in the family's breadwinner, but because he loves his work and always has, Judy said. "He did not have a lot of toys as a child, so he's enjoying grown-up toys."

Her husband of 25 years is a workaholic and perfectionist, so being sidelined is a "huge adjustment," she said.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

How to help

Sunday's fundraiser for Dorlin Haste will be at Land Title Plaza, along the Mill Creek channel walkway, from 3-6 p.m. Signs will be posted. The menu features haystacks created by Walla Walla Catering. Vegetarian options will be available, along with strawberry shortcake and beverages. Tickets are $7.

Participants are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.

A silent auction will include a trip to Sisters, Ore., power tools, an air purifier and other appliances.

For more information call 527-3353.

A benefit account for Haste has been established at Banner Bank. Donations may be made at any branch.

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