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Arizona man back in ICU after contracting West Nile virus, becoming paralyzed

Gary Bushko
Posted at 3:13 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 23:28:22-04

PEORIA, AZ — A Peoria man who has contracted the West Nile virus has been transferred back to an intensive care unit, just days after trying to learn how to stand again.

Gary Bushko had to be taken by helicopter to a new hospital over the weekend after suffering a brain bleed, according to his wife, Jennifer Snider-Bushko.

The family learned last week that Bushko tested positive for West Nile after becoming partially paralyzed by the virus. Last Thursday, Bushko was unable to move his hands or his arm, he’s unable to speak or swallow on his own.

Snider-Bushko said it took nearly a week to get an actual diagnosis of what was causing the paralysis.

Bushko was rushed to a hospital nearly two weeks ago to hospital in Glendale where he was in the ICU for several days before being transferred to a cardiac floor after doctors believed he had had a stroke.

west Nile paralyzed

Bushko, who is now retired, is just a little over a year away from becoming eligible for Medicare, so that means he has no health insurance at this time.

“I need somebody to take him for rehab, I mean I need somebody with a heart to just take him to get him back, so he can get stronger, get back home, because he’s got the will to fight,” said Jennifer.

The couple just celebrating their sixth year anniversary while Bushko was in the hospital.

Snider-Bushko has been calling different rehabilitation centers to find a pro bono location, but because COVID-19 beds are limited, “this is something that’s so rare, we need help.”

The long-term recovery for Bushko is unclear as doctors have told them it could take six months to two years.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the virus can cause serious neurological infections, including inflammation of the brain in less than one percent of people.

The Mayo Clinic says the signs and symptoms of neurological infections include:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Coma
  • Tremors or muscle jerking
  • Seizures
  • Partial paralysis or muscle weakness
  • Vision loss
  • Numbness

A fundraiser on social media says Bushko worked for Xerox for three decades before retiring.

“As WNV is very little studied, and there is no vaccine/ no treatment, the doctor estimates at least 6 months to 2 years to recover (with an unknown outcome); so the only course of action (beyond a feeding tube and hydration) is getting Gary into a rehab facility that can help him with the long journey of working with his crippled central nervous system and brain, learning to speak again, swallow, walk, use the bathroom, build strength, and slowly recover his physical functionality,” the post stated.

Last week, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health announced the second death from West Nile and they say they have seen a "significant increase" in the number of cases since last year.

The county’s Environmental Services Department tests mosquitoes from around the county weekly, and as of Thursday, there were 377 positive samples for West Nile.

There are also 38 known human cases of West Nile in Maricopa County.

Environmental Services have hundreds of mosquito traps across the county that they surveillance for mosquitoes — and that helps determine areas to treat with high numbers of mosquitoes.

To see if there are traps for testing near you, click here.

To contact the Mosquito Information Hotline visit https://www.maricopa.gov/2423/Fight-the-Bite or call (602) 506-0700