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Big spike in West Nile cases concerns Oklahoma officials

Over the past few weeks, Oklahoma has seen 31 cases of the mosquito-borne illness, more cases than if you added up all reported West Nile disease reports from 2008 to 2011.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: August 10, 2012 at 8:40 pm •  Published: August 10, 2012

/articleid/3699958/1/pictures/1798378">Photo - Bob Matthews is comforted by his wife, B.J., on Friday as he continues to recover from the effects of West Nile virus. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Bob Matthews is comforted by his wife, B.J., on Friday as he continues to recover from the effects of West Nile virus. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Matthews is the one in the 150. Symptoms for the more severe cases of West Nile include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis, according to the CDC.

These symptoms can last for several weeks, and the neurological effects might be permanent.

By his second week in the hospital, Matthews could not move or open his eyes. This was the point where B.J. Matthews thought she was going to lose her husband of 46 years.

“For a wife, it's really kind of scary when you all of a sudden realize you're incapacitated,” she said.

B.J. Matthews celebrates the small things. Two days ago, her husband couldn't move his legs. But on Friday afternoon, he moves one of his legs and wiggles his toes.

“That could not be done until two days ago,” she said.

For now, Bob Matthews must depend on others. He lay in his bed at an Oklahoma City skilled nursing center as B.J. Matthews helped him scratch his arm.

Down. A little lower. Not as fast.

He apologizes for being impatient. She explains he isn't being impatient. The two bicker like a married couple that love each other. She explains he doesn't need to apologize. He's allowed to be angry.

“It's one thing to look around and see other people being fed,” Bob Matthews said on Friday afternoon. “But when you're there yourself, and you can't say, ‘Hey, that's not another person, that's me,' it hurts.”

Bob and B.J. Matthews have eaten a lot of Braum's in the past few weeks. She lets him know she found a ham hock in the freezer. She'll make that and some green beans and new potatoes for dinner soon.

For now, the prognosis is uncertain. The family lives on prayers and patience, one day at a time.

“When you see just a glimmer of improvement, it makes your day,” she said. “You never think wiggling a toe is really going to be something exciting, but it is.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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