Blake's normal life took a major turn for the worse because of a tiny insect.
“We joke in my family now about the new normal for Blake,” he says.
That new normal follows the recovery from a bite from a West Nile carrying mosquito last August. He spent four weeks in the hospital and the following five months in neurorehabilitation.
“There's some treatment protocols, but, you know, am I going to get better? I don't know. Will I be able to walk without a cane? I don't know. Will I quit having a Parkinson-like shake in my hand? I don't know,” Blake says.
But Blake’s new normal is a lot better than the day he awakened in the ICU, more than a week after passing out in an emergency room.
“I wake up in the hospital. And it’s like, well I can’t walk,” Blake says. “My speech was much like aphasia with a stroke victim. It's like you have words in your head, but you can't get them out. Learning fine motor skills again like how to eat, how to feed myself, that kind of stuff.”
He says he had to relearn how to read and write, and accepts and admits some things will never come back. However, he hopes there will be more research on West Nile. He says currently research is limited and it's difficult to diagnose.
“We did not get a completed, firm diagnosis that I had West Nile encephalitis until I was in the hospital for three weeks,” Blake says.
During that time, Blake’s body was bombarded with medications with doctors not knowing what they were treating.
“They said ‘well, we don't know if it's viral or if it’s bacterial so we’re just going to hit him with everything and see what happens,’” Blake says.
Ten months later, Blake no longer has West Nile but continues to live with some of the after effects of the disease.
He realizes that being 58 years old when he was infected may have been an additional blessing.
“It seems to be, from the medical literature, at 60 your chances of recovery diminish significantly, you know. So death is a more likely outcome,” Blake says.
He hopes his story brings about more awareness to a potentially fatal disease carried by mosquitos, and he encourages local governments to step up their tracking and eradication efforts.
He also has some words for you and me.
“If you're going to go outside, put on some insect repellent. Because that's really the only thing that you can do to keep the mosquitos off of you.”
From his experience, Blake should know.
Blake is a miracle in progress. He's continuing his doctoral program and education and his rehabilitation. He wants everyone to know that West Nile can be a killer and in cases like his, you may get rid of the virus, but you may have to live with the after effects for the rest of your life.