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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
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Don R. Read, MD continued...

It wasn't typical for the hard-driving surgeon, who was accustomed to performing surgery all day long and then joining family members for social activities.

The next day was no better. "I felt as bad when I got up [as when he had gone to sleep]," he says.

Read isn't a guy who gets sick, he says. "I'd missed four days of work in 27 years."

He went to work, thinking he would shake it off. He didn't.

Within a few days, he was sleeping 20 hours a day.

His wife begged him to go to the hospital, but one of their daughters had a music recital in Indiana, and he didn't want to miss it.

Off they flew, and they planned a reception for her afterward. Read slept all day, went to the recital, made it through 30 minutes of the reception, and collapsed into bed.

Then both of his legs became paralyzed. It was time to go to the hospital.

His arms were affected, too. "I could barely move my arms and I couldn't move my legs at all," he says.

At the hospital in Indiana, they placed him in the intensive care unit and gave him the only available treatments -- supportive care and treating of the symptoms, including strong pain medicines.

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.

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