West Nile survivor shares his story - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

West Nile survivor shares his story

(KFVS) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 1,700 people in the U.S. have died of the West Nile virus since it was first discovered in 1999.

But for one West Nile survivor, he's making sure he's not apart of that statistic.

My dad is a fighter who has defied the odds against a disease that almost ended his life.

For Jeff Daniel, walking, let alone walking across a graduation stage, would've been close to impossible just three years ago.

“I had a trach, I couldn't speak,” Daniel said. “The only thing I could do was move my head from left to right. I was paralyzed from the neck down.”

In August of 2012, my dad contracted the West Nile virus, a deadly disease he got from a mosquito bite in Mason, Ohio.

According to the CDC, less than 1 percent who are infected with West Nile will develop a serious illness such as viral meningitis, which is what he had.

“It was just a headache, tender spine, fever, and then the next thing I knew, I was in the hospital trached, being tube-fed, had a shunt coming out of my brain from cephalitis and just losing a tremendous amount of weight,” Daniel said.

Losing about 70 pounds, and in the hospital for more than three months, my dad had to relearn what he had been doing for years.

“Within a few days of being in the emergency room, I went from walking myself into the emergency room, to being in a coma on a ventilator,” he said.

But he made the impossible possible, one step at a time.

“I never lost faith,” he said. “To go from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, to walking on my own and walking tall does not mean the journey is over, what it means to me is that I've overcome so many things. “

A process that didn't come easy, but it was an obstacle he knew he could overcome because of the support team he had.

“Therapists, Pilate's instructors, acupuncturists, massage folks, physical therapy, friends and family who really encouraged me both at home and at work,” Daniel said.

He recently just walked across the stage to earn his MBA at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I felt awesome…but not just for myself,” Daniel said. “But for all the people who supported me and all the people who prayed for me.”

He said his message to everyone is to never take life for granted.

“Love one another, life is short, I feel like I got a second chance, and I want to make the best of it,” he said.

My dad told me his journey doesn't stop at graduation, it's an everyday race of getting better and feeling stronger and he wants to continue to telling his story, so that others know that anything is possible.

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