Nerve damage, memory loss - Living with West Nile Virus

8:02 PM, Oct 13, 2006   |    comments
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The cold weather is killing off mosquitos, but the pests had an impact this spring and summer on people in Michigan. 37 people contracted the West Nile Virus, which is spread by mosquitos. 12 of those people live in Kent County. A Grand Rapids area woman is one of the most recent cases, and may not fully recover for quite a while. Gardening, golfing and walking are some of Janine Karamol's favorite activities. She's an outdoors person, but never thought that would ruin her health. "The pain was so severe I almost passed out," Janine says from a couch in her home where she's spending a lot of time these days. On Labor Day weekend, Janine suffered terrible pain in her legs. Doctors checked for blood clots, a slipped disk in her back, but found nothing. A few days later, the pain immobilized her. "They literally had to carry me out of the house I couldn't stand alone." Doctors ran tests, and as the pain continued and her fever spiked to 104 degrees, her daughter watched in horror. "She was just in so much pain, it didn't look like her and it was so hard to look at her. We had no idea what was wrong," says Jennifer Karamol, who is at her mom's house a lot lately taking care of her. With no answers, Janine's daughter asked doctor's if her mom might have the West Nile Virus. She did. Because it attacks the nervous system, Janine lost the use of her right leg. "There is no feeling in this leg, I can't feel it from here up, I have no muscle and that's the major damage." The virus also affected her short term memory. She's just now getting some back, but will never remember being in the hospital. That is probably a good thing. More than a month after first getting symptoms, she now counts on her family and friends to take care of her. And get her in shape for her daughter's wedding next may. "My biggest incentive is walking normally down the aisle and dancing at her wedding," Janine says. A goal to work towards, as she thinks how remarkable it is that a little insect can have this big an impact. "When they finally said it's West Nile, I said no it can't be one mosquito, it can't do this to a person. But, I'm here to believe them now." Doctors give Janine a three week window of when they think she contracted West Nile. She may not be fully recovered for a year, even more.

Keith Baldi

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