Monday, May 13, 2013

Clean Your Pipes!

Reprinted from The New York Times

By
Published: March 18, 2013 (photo added by me)

  

A prominent Scottish bagpiping school has warned pipers around to world to clean their instruments regularly after one of its longtime members nearly died of a lung infection caused by fungi growing inside his bag.
      
Highland pipers are fixtures of St. Patrick’s Day parades, and versions of bagpipes are played in many countries, from Sweden to Turkey; even one French Navy band plays them.
      
John Shone, 77, a Glaswegian, spent a month in the hospital with pneumonia and lost 21 pounds. After antibacterial treatment failed, a doctor told him he was dying, and then asked about his hobbies. When his son brought in his bagpipes, two types of fungi — rhodotorula and fusarium — were cultured.
      
Mr. Shone acknowledged in a telephone interview that he had not cleaned his bag since being invited 18 months ago to play for a master piper, Donald MacPherson. “It was very remiss of me,” he said. “But pipes have a habit of going badly or going well, and mine were going very well.”
      
He wrote his story for The Piping News, published by Glasgow’s College of Piping, and it was picked up by local papers.
      
Traditional pipe bags are made of sheepskin or cowhide while modern ones are made of synthetics like Gore-Tex.
      
Both are still used, and even experts disagree about which are potentially riskier. Synthetic bags can be zipped open to clean, which Mr. Shone normally did with a disinfectant spray for his bag. A gluey “seasoning” must regularly be poured into closed skin bags to seal air leaks. Seasoning recipes are secret, but Willie Park, manager of the college’s shop, said he had detected fennel and lemon grass, along with disinfectant. In bygone days, he said, pipers used honey, which has antimicrobial properties.
      
This is not the first report of bagpipe fungal pneumonia; a 1978 article in The Lancet described a piper with a cryptococcal infection. On Web sites for pipe players, over-vigorous playing has also been blamed for hernias and pneumomediastinum (air pockets between the lungs).
      
But piping is believed to increase the lung capacity of emphysema and bronchitis patients. Mr. Park noted that some college members are in their 90s, and still playing.