West Nile survivor reacts to local West Nile death

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by Karma Dickerson

WHAS11.com

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 4 at 7:33 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The Centers for Disease Control says this has been the worst year for West Nile since 2003. We talked to the family of a Louisville man who died recently as well as a local woman who survived.  She says even though she didn't lose her life, it's changed her forever.

On Thursday Glen Long will bury his father. A lifelong Louisville resident, 84-year-old Bill Long was one of 164 people in the country who lost battles with West Nile in 2012.

"He went into the emergency room and he was admitted two more times before he was so weak they had to put him on life support", Glenn Long said.

So far in 2012, the disease has been deadly in only four percent of people. But one survivor tells us the recovery may be worse than the illness.

Deborah Vaughn’s fever, nausea, and diarrhea had gotten so bad she couldn't feed herself when she checked into the hospital in May.  After three weeks of tests, doctors gave the Vaughn’s a diagnosis --- West Nile --- and survival was never certain.

“One time when they rushed her to ICU I thought she was gone, tell you the truth”, Vaughn’s husband Bruce said.

Debbie and Bruce were overjoyed when they learned she was well enough to return home.

“I prayed every day and every night she would walk out of here, she might didn't walk but she came home,” Bruce said.

Two weeks later Debbie is extremely weak and can't stand without help, or even lift her right arm.  Doctors say it could take up to a year to regain movement, but the Vaughn’s can't afford professional rehab. The couple says four months in the hospital has cost $2 million in medical bills.  Money they don't have since Bruce stays home to care for his wife.

“I can't leave her by herself.  If she falls and I'm not there to help her, what happens then?” he worries.

When Debbie thinks about people like Bill Long, who never came home, she feels God chose her path but she's not sure it's any easier.

“Do you feel lucky?  In a way, I don't, Why can't I be like them? He didn't choose me to die, he chose me to live,” Debbie said.

The Vaughn’s are asking for any assistance with their medical fees, including physical therapy for Debbie. They can be contacted at 502-835-2084.

 

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