LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – A Louisville man is marking five years since he nearly died after contracting the West Nile Virus. In 2015, Gary Jamison said his heart stopped and his legs were paralyzed from what at the start of his day felt like the flu.
“At Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, waiting to get an MRI, it so overwhelmed my body that is stopped my heart,” Jamison said. “So, now, you can say you’ve met somebody who’s been resurrected. Thank you, Lord.”
For Jamison, 68, just half a decade has brought a lifetime of perspective.
“Suddenly, the road gets pulled out from under your feet,” he said. “So, you either are proactive and think about beating it, or you’re just going to get pushed off to the wayside.”
For a year, Jamison couldn’t stand. He was paralyzed from the waist down, and through persistent rehab is now walking at 80 percent five years later.
“People just don’t take it seriously because they just say, ‘Ah, it’s not going to happen to me,'” he said. “Well, I had heard of West Nile and I had heard of mosquitos, but I never thought I’d get infected by it.”
In 2020, Jamison is finding it harder to get better and build up his strength in the middle of a pandemic.
“I actually went backwards a little bit,” Jamison said. “I was doing really good up until the virus got us. So, since March, I haven’t been able to go to the gym.”
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Jamison said he wants to see more research on West Nile Virus because right now he doesn’t know if he could get it again, or if he’s more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Discussing doubters of either public health issue, he said precautions like wearing a mask or putting on bug spray seem minor compared to the damage a virus can inflict.
“You pay attention to what the scientists and the doctors are telling you,” he said. “They have no reason to lie.”
Jamison emphasized if someone hears that West Nile Virus has been found in their area, they should protect themselves and their children with insect repellent.
“I think what really has struck me the hardest is realizing now, how in a blink of an eye your life can change forever,” he said.
West Nile Virus has been detected this year in Southern Indiana and Kentucky.
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