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Oklahoma City man continues his slow recovery from West Nile virus

Bob Matthews, a 77-year-old retired Heritage Hall principal, is working to recover from the neurological effects of West Nile virus. He has been at an Oklahoma City rehabilitation center for the past few weeks and hopes to be home by Christmas.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 9, 2012

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.”