Our recent column on Dick Harrell and Dale Pulde resulted in numerous emails and letters coming our way. Several of the letters asked how Dale Pulde, a multi-time nitro Funny Car champion in his beautiful “War Eagle” funny car, has been doing lately as he nearly died from a rare disease called “valley fever.”
Thanks to Pulde and his longtime companion Valerie Harrell (daughter of legendary “Mr. Chevrolet" Dick Harrell), I am happy to tell all my readers that Pulde is doing better, although the talk of his nearly dying from the disease is true. Pulde explained in several articles written on him that he had gotten ill three years in a row after attending races at Bakersfield, Calif. Starting with a cough, doctors prescribed cough syrups and other medicines, and he would then feel better. By 2010, however, his condition stared to deteriorate, and doctors ran numerous tests to try and find out why Pulde was totally exhausted.
Thanks to Valerie, who did much online investigating, she remembered fellow racer Jack Harris had previously told Pulde of his own battle with valley fever. Harris noted that he had contacted the disease in Utah from dust attributed to nearby mining. In a story written by well-known drag racing writer Bobby Bennett, Valerie recalled a helicopter landing and stirring up dust when they were racing at Bakersfield. Things started to click.
Known officially as Coccidiodomycosis, valley fever attacks the body’s respiratory system via fungus spores breathed in from the dust. The Bakersfield racetrack is located in Kern County, now believed to be “a hyper-endemic” area for contacting valley fever.
Things got so bad before the correct diagnosis that Pulde was coughing up blood as the disease attacked his right lung. Bacteria then formed, and he almost lost his life. Thankfully, today Pulde is feeling better, but valley fever has no cure. Valerie recommends reading the book “Valley Fever Epidemic,” by David and Sharon Filip. It explains in detail about the incurable, debilitating and deadly disease, and especially the problems associated with the common misdiagnosis.
Additionally, the cost of antifungal drug treatments is expensive, costing up to $20,000 per year. States on the “valley fever list” include Arizona, where 65 percent of cases are contacted, and California, where 33 percent contract the disease. The other 2 percent are contacted in New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.
This column is different from my usual but certainly worthy of space, especially if we can help even one person fighting this disease unknowingly. Pulde and Harrell are well-known to racing and muscle car enthusiasts and deserve the space. If you currently live near a track that features IHRA Nitro Jam Nostalgia Funny Car racing, Pulde’s “War Eagle” will be one of the star attractions. (See www.wareagleracing.com for more information.)
Greg Zyla writes weekly for GateHouse Media and welcomes reader questions on collector cars, auto nostalgia or motorsports at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.