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Beyond Statistics: 2 Faces of West Nile Virus

Thousands Now Live With West Nile Virus Infection. Here, 2 Share Their Stories

Don R. Read, MD continued...

After eight days, Read was flown back to Medical City Dallas Hospital, where he's on staff.

In all, he says, "I spent almost five weeks in ICU."

"I had meningitis, encephalitis, and polio-like paralysis," he says. All are complications of the infection, suffered by a minority of people infected. The infection also affected his speech.

He had to relearn how to walk and talk.

After hours of physical, occupational, and speech therapy, he ''graduated'' to home health rehab.

"I could walk with a walker but not very far," he says. "I had no strength, no stamina."

Finally came the day he'd hoped for -- back to work. "From the day I got sick until the day I went back to work was seven months," he says.

"It was about a year before I could work 35 hours a week," down from his usual 88, he says.

Seven years later, recovery is ongoing, he says. "I still wear braces on both legs," he says. It helps him walk and avoid overusing the muscles.

"I had to give up doing abdominal surgery." Those procedures, he says, require a doctor to stand in ''funny'' positions for long periods.

Now, he focuses on colon and rectal surgeries and colonoscopies.

In 2006, he and his wife launched a support group for others infected. In recent years, it has gone on hiatus due to too few cases to gather a group.

In September, Read says, they will begin meeting again, as Dallas has been hard-hit this year.

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