With the help of a physical therapist, Bob Matthews can stand up.
For a man who could barely wiggle his toes two months ago, this is good news.
“Hopefully, eventually, I will be able to walk,” Matthews, 77, said from his bed at an Oklahoma City recovery center.
“They don't know yet, but they've given me that hope. Our goal is to be home by Christmas, and I've been told that is not an unreasonable hope, but they can't guarantee it.”
Matthews' story is one of many.
He and 163 other Oklahoma residents have contracted West Nile virus this year, the largest number the state has seen since the virus entered the U.S. in 1999.
Even with much uncertainty in his future, Matthews considers himself lucky to be in recovery.
The state Health Department has confirmed nine people have died because of West Nile-related complications.
As Oklahoma moves into cooler weather, mosquitoes eventually will go into hibernation.
In recent days, parts of Oklahoma experienced the first autumn freeze, but one freeze doesn't mean all mosquitoes, which carry the disease, are now in hibernation, said Laurence Burnsed, a state Health Department epidemiologist.
“It's important for people to know that although we are in fall time, there are still warmer temperatures occurring that could still influence the potential risk of West Nile virus,” he said.
Oklahoma's West Nile virus season peaked in August and has been on the decline since.
However, it's still important for residents to continue using mosquito repellent and wearing long shirts and pants when enjoying the outdoors. Also, it's important to remove stagnant water from around the home, for it can serve as a mosquito breeding ground.
Bob Matthews' wife, B.J., has become hyperaware of people not using mosquito repellent.
Recently in her neighborhood, someone was throwing an outdoor party, and B.J. considered going out to discuss the merits of using mosquito repellent.
“I would like the message to get out: This is a serious thing for people,” she said. “They need to know when you walk out, you need to have DEET on.”
She wishes there were a support group in Oklahoma for people with West Nile and their caregivers. The impact on B.J. and Bob Matthews has been more than significant.
Most people who are bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus do not contract the virus. Some develop West Nile fever, with symptoms including fever, headache, nausea and body aches lasting a few days or longer.
About 20 percent of people who contract West Nile virus will develop severe neurological disease. People older than 50 are at the highest risk of developing a serious illness.
By Bob Matthews' second week in the hospital, he couldn't move his body or open his eyes. His family feared he would not make it.
Recovery from the West Nile virus can be slow and painful. The Matthewses take one day at a time and celebrate the small successes — the wiggle of one toe, the movement of one finger.
“The improvement is so slight sometimes you miss it,” B.J. Matthews said. “But we're thankful for what we've got, because some people didn't get that far. I just can't imagine.”