My name is Patrick Wilson; I am Charles’ son and am contributing this month’s blog.
On July 25, my parents returned from a trip to visit family in New York State and Canada. The next day was Friday, and my father found himself suffering from flu-like symptoms, including a headache, fatigue, and high fever. By the time I visited him on Sunday, his symptoms had worsened. His hands were trembling, he was leaning slightly to one side, and he was not completely lucid. My mother and I decided to take him to the hospital for emergency treatment.
The initial battery of tests revealed a high white blood cell count in his spinal fluid, a sign of some form of attack on his central nervous system. He was prescribed a broad spectrum of antibiotics to treat his symptoms, while cultures of his various fluids were grown so the cause could be determined. A few days later, the diagnosis came back as most likely being West Nile Virus, and this has since then been confirmed.
Currently, there are no definitive cures for West Nile Virus; symptoms are aggressively treated while the infection runs its two- to three-week course. Unfortunately, the disease continues to damage the nervous system during this time. In my father’s case, this was most notable in his upper torso, including shoulders, arms, and breathing muscles. Eventually he became too weak to eat and then to breathe. He was rushed to intensive care, given a feeding tube through the nose and a breathing tube down his throat. Machines were keeping him alive.
I am happy to say that, despite the severity of his illness, my father was strong enough to pull through and consistently improve since then. He eventually was taken off the respirator, moved out of ICU, and is currently in a Kaiser rehabilitation facility regaining his motor skills and physical strength. The next step will be acute rehabilitation followed by, as much as possible, a return to his normal life.
While the risk of a life-changing event such as West Nile Virus may be small, the repercussions can be extreme, and it is prudent to make some basic preparations. This month’s tip is to reserve a Sunday afternoon to create a folder containing information that might be relevant to someone assisting you in such a case. Specify all of your passwords (websites, accounts, and digital devices), recurring bills, and financial and medical information. You may want to include a list of your key business contacts and a brief description of your relationship with each of them. Fortunately, my father had much of this information easily on hand, which allowed us to focus on his care and well being rather than administrative needs.
My father has not tiptoed through life, and he may not safely arrive at death, but he manages his risks and lives his life well. This is our story; please share your experiences or ideas here so that we can all learn from each other.