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Hard times at Theodore

LEFT: Trevor Brownlie shows he is still in good spirits at a Cotton Australia barbecue last Thursday, kindly accepting a cupcake from Diane French, Nandina, Theodore.

THEODORE irrigators Trevor and Lea Brownlie have had a pretty harrowing time these past few weeks.

Not only have they lost about 450 hectares of cotton on their two farms, Farley and Mahnal, they also spent several days in hospital with a bacterial illness contracted from floodwaters that doctors initially struggled to diagnose.

They had a team of doctors at Moura, Theodore and in Brisbane working on the illness leptospirosis which had Mr Brownlie in hospital for almost two weeks.

He admits things were pretty bad at one stage.

“The easiest way to describe it is I was like a 90-year-old man on his death bed,” he said.

“I thought it was just fatigue and thought ‘oh, a bit of rest will do’ but I was just lying on the couch shaking and shivering for two days.”

The Brownlies contracted the illness, which normally infects cattle none of which they have while wading through floodwaters cleaning up their ruined farms and houses.

“I would have been in floodwaters for about eight hours every day for about three weeks. I thought it was just fatigue because I was only getting about two or three hours’ sleep every night,” Mr Brownlie said.

Mr Brownlie said once in hospital, he suffered hallucina-tions, severe fever and his blood pressure dropped below critical levels.

“I had a full video set I just closed my eyes and I was in the movies,” Mr Brownlie wryly said. “I would just shake my head like that and into the next movie.

“I never actually got to the end of the video set … my doctor said ‘sorry about taking your videos away’ but it’s okay, I was grateful.”

Mr Brownlie said his children Ryan, 20, Frazer, 15, and Rose, 18 really stepped up to the plate while he was in hospital.

“All we let them know was that I was in hospital … they knew I was bad but they didn’t know how bad,” he said.

“I just laid all responsibility on Ryan and my young fella (Frazer) and said do what you can, help clean up and they did a magic job they were just tremendous.”

Since returning home, Mr Brownlie has been back into the recovery effort, but will suffer side-effects for some time.

“I’ll be shaking for a couple of months on tables I’ll be rattling pretty well,” he joked.

“I was in hospital and I thought we were fairly hard done by, but then I saw what happened in the Lockyer Valley and my heart just went out to them.

“We didn’t have any deaths here, touch wood.”

Mr Brownlie also thanked Ben Conroy and Luke Fay who, despite having their own houses ruined by floodwaters, have been helping the Brownlies with recovery.

“They’ve just been helping out cleaning stuff that has washed away among the trees and everything,” he said.

Mr Brownlie said they were trying to recover about 3000 siphons worth about $25,000 which had been washed away.

Like many other farmers in the region, this is the second year running they have lost a cotton crop following the flooding in March 2010.

“It is devastating. We’ve copped two years now,” he said.

“We’re basically going to be three years without a substantial income.”

Mr Brownlie said he was considering a winter crop. However, it was a risky option.

“Well we’re going to try and get a cash flow going but the problem is with a lot of winter crops, you want a short crop, but it is very vulnerable to the weather,” he said.

Mr Brownlie said outside assistance had been a huge help.

“We came back wandering around, wondering where to start.

“Next thing some bloke will come in and give you a lead with where to start and mentally it’s got us looking back up the mountain again, knowing we can get over it.”

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