Somewhere between the rolling surf of his everyday life, the powdery snow of his August ski holiday and the infinite dust thrown up by his job at a civil construction firm, something sinister came calling for Christian Rusgnach.
The fit and active Jervis Bay 25-year-old returned from the snow trip feeling "funny", then developed a fever he couldn't shake.
A litany of tests and a few days at Shoalhaven Hospital's ICU seemed to set him right, but then that's when everything really went to hell.
"This is where everything started to turn into a bit of a blur," Christian told the Australian Community Media.
"I went home ... I stood up one night to get a glass of water. It was pitch black in the house, but it was like I was staring straight at the sun. I was really, really dizzy."
A microscopic bacteria had found its way inside Christian's body, possibly through something as innocuous as a cut on his hand.
For three weeks the bacteria had worked its way through his body. The infection had poisoned his blood and eaten a hole through his heart's mitral valve, causing blood to flow the wrong way. The organ was failing. His surgeon would soon deem him "very close - hours" from total organ shutdown.
"It was quite scary to see how quickly things can change - from going to thinking I just had some sort of virus, to hearing that my heart was on the verge of failure," Christian said.
"I remember waking up in the ICU section of the private hospital and seeing all the drains and stuff coming out of me, and having everything in my neck. I don't have the words to explain it. It was confronting."
Over 3.5 hours, doctors removed a lump of bacteria from Christian's damaged valve and replaced it with a pig's valve.
His surgeon, Professor Adam El-Gamel, said he couldn't help but think of his own 25-year-old son as he watched Christian's heart stop beating in readiness for the procedure.
"You can't stop it [the heart] for a very long time, otherwise it wouldn't beat again," he said.
"How long you can stop it for depends on the energy stored in it. And when it is sick, there is less energy, because it has been working really hard.
"Christian's operation was more stressful than usual because of his age. It's pretty difficult to operate with somebody the age of your own son."
The operation was a success, with Christian visiting his doctors last week for a follow-up
Prof El-Gamel said the case demonstrated the effect a local cardiac surgical service was having.
A cardiothoracic service began operating in Wollongong in September last year, eliminating the need for an estimated 450-500 Illawarra patients to travel to Sydney for surgery each year.
Prof El-Gamel said a local service eliminated travel time and meant patients had smoother and often quicker access to surgery.
"Christian didn't have to go in an ambulance for an hour and a half drive to Sydney - God knows what could have happened during that journey," he said.
"There's also competition with the number of patients going to Sydney to have an operation - there's a waiting list - there are plenty of delays going to happen because of the transfer [to Sydney]."
Christian won't be able to lift anything heavy for several more months, but has been able to resume surfing. He says he has thought often about the bacteria that almost cost him his life, and wonders whether he could have picked it up from soil or snow.
"They re-grew the bacteria once they swapped over my heart valve and they could identify what type of bacteria it was, but I guess how it got into my body will forever be a mystery," he said.