LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – West Nile Virus is top of mind this time of year. So, just how dangerous is it?
Last week, health officials said a 73-year-old Louisville man died of the mosquito-borne illness.
Mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile in Clark County, Indiana and throughout Jefferson County in Kentucky. The majority of people who get infected may never develop any symptoms. But, for the other 20-30%, it could be forever life altering.
"I was born in 1952. I died in 2015. I was resurrected in 2015, and the rest is left to be determined," West Nile survivor Gary Jamison said.
Jamison said that is his new life motto since his world was flipped upside down last October, when he woke up feeling as if he had the flu.
"I got up off the couch to open the door and I took three steps and my legs went out," Jamison said. "The first thing I thought was I had a stroke."
Jamison was rushed to the hospital and was waiting for an MRI when his heart stopped.
"After three and a half weeks in intensive care they still didn't know," Jamison said. "They ran all kinds of tests and I was on all kinds of expensive antibiotics that I never heard of, and finally after the third spinal test they saw the West Nile virus."
Little did he know, a mosquito could instantly make him wheelchair bound. His beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle would have to sit in the garage. His home altered as he discovered everyday life wasn't as easy as it used to be.
"Through therapy, I have learned to walk again. I can now stand, and I can get on a walker and go 107 feet, which I set a record today at therapy."
Jamison said the best medicine was a change of attitude. "You are either going to stay in bed or you are going to stay in a wheelchair the rest of your life, unless you get your mind right."
That was something Jamison had to learn on his own, so now he wants to be an outlet for others. He started his own website for West Nile survivors, hoping it can turn into a forum and serve as a support group. Most importantly, he hopes to help spread the word about the potentially dangerous virus.
"As many people that I can tell and let them know to prevent their death possibly or paralysis, that's what I want to do," Jamison said.
It's been a long road, but Jamison is about 50% recovered. His doctors and therapists believe he can get back to 100%, as long as he keeps fighting and pushing forward.
For tips on how to avoid West Nile, click here.