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Recovering from West Nile brings family together

Bob Matthews, a retired Heritage Hall principal, has spent the past several months recovering from West Nile virus. Matthews is thankful for the support of his family during his recovery.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 24, 2013

There is no cure for West Nile virus, and the recovery period can be slow. Matthews hasn't yet regained his ability to walk, but he has no plans of giving up.

“Healing is slow, and that's the one frustration,” he said. “As this came on overnight, you expect it to go away overnight, and it goes away when it determines, not when you want it to. Everyone says I'm made a lot of improvement, and that I will be walking. With them saying it, I'm going to do it, I guess.”

The shortest stay that anyone in Oklahoma had in the hospital for West Nile virus was one day. The longest was 119 days, according to the state Health Department. That doesn't include time that people spent in rehabilitation hospitals, though.

Matthews came home in January after spending about six months in the hospital and skilled nursing facilities. It was just too expensive to stay. Each month in a skilled nursing facility cost about $20,000.

About three weeks after he came home, his daughter Keri Collins, her husband and their two sons moved in to help Bob Matthews' wife B.J. with his care. Along with them came two dogs, cats and a boa constrictor that stays in what the Matthews' grandsons have dubbed “Creeper Cove.”

B.J. Matthews feels blessed to have the help of her daughter and her family. They help each other with things like operating the electric lift, which can be difficult to maneuver with the home's carpet.

“They've given up their lives for us,” she said.

The family has learned a lot about navigating through Medicare. For example, they wanted to get Matthews a medical air mattress to sleep on. The mattress would be better for Matthews to sleep on, for his recovery involves a lot of nerve pain.

But to qualify for the bed, Matthews had to first develop bed sores, or pressure ulcers.

“A bed sore doesn't happen over night, so he had to be uncomfortable for a period of time for those to develop in order to qualify for the bed, which has made a huge difference,” Collins said.

It's one of many of the family's stories about the system. But they're not alone in their fight. They have each other, and they repeatedly thank one another for that.

“You deal with what you have, and be grateful that you have support,” B.J. Matthews said. “I thought the other day, what if they lived overseas or if they lived in another state? What on earth would we have done without this family?”

Contributing: Bryan Painter, Staff Writer

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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