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Valley father paralyzed after mosquito bite infects him with West Nile virus

Posted at 10:39 PM, Jul 02, 2016

Less than a month ago, 32-year old Nicholas Cornelius could run around, pick up his newborn daughter and be a "normal" active dad. One mosquito bite changed everything.

Until this year, he never really thought about the West Nile virus. The family had seen mosquitos around the house, but it didn't really bother Cornelius. Three weeks ago, he was working in his garage, when he felt the sharp bite.

"It actually hurt when it got me. It was right in my arm," said Cornelius.

He forgot about it. Then four days later, he started getting flu-like symptoms. His body felt weak, he described it as "soft to the touch", and it just kept getting worse. Less than a week later, he found himself in the intensive care unit. Cornelius said his muscles felt so weak, that he couldn't walk.

At the hospital, staff struggled to figure out why he was suffering. After an MRI, several blood draws and other tests later, he was finally diagnosed with West Nile. He spent almost two weeks in the hospital, and was paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors told him he would be able to walk again, but it would take a lot of physical therapy.

That therapy isn't cheap. He says it costs $950 a day -- money the family simply does not have. With Cornelius paralyzed, his wife has had to take on extra shifts to support the family.  Cornelius stays home to care for their two children, one of whom is a five-month-old toddler. They have some family that can help, but it's been a struggle.

"They want $950 a day, that's just crazy. I don't even make that in a week," said Cornelius. He was self-employed, but lost his business. His wife just started a new job and has no benefits, so the family is wondering how they'll be able to go through the rehab.

Cornelius said he is sharing his story because he wants everyone to know the dangers of West Nile.

"Three weeks ago, I could run around and play with my kids, take care of them. Now this. I was just always so naive about it. When I heard West Nile, like are you kidding me? Then look what happened," said Cornelius.

The family has set up a Go Fund Me account. If you'd like to help, you can do so here. 

To read more about the symptoms of the West Nile Virus and prevention tips from the Mayo Clinic, click here.