This past summer and fall saw one of the largest outbreaks of the West Nile virus in our nation's history. But for one Aberdeen man an unlucky mosquito bite quickly became something much, much worse.
Five weeks ago Herb Forkel would have walked down these halls with no problem. But what started as a backache quickly progressed to an intense fever and left Herb fighting for his life.
"It's baffling that something like that happened. It happened in like 30 hour period." Said Forkel.
Herb checked himself into the ER for what doctors initially thought was a severe West Nile infection, what they found was actually much worse.
"Coming from your spinal cord are the nerve endings to go to all the muscles and your skin but Herb's nerves are kind of damage, we call this Guillain-Barre Syndrome." Said Dr. Jae Yoo, a Physiatrist with Avera St. Luke's.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a disorder in which your body's own immune system starts attacking the nerves that carry signals to and from your brain. Aside from being extremely painful, the disorder proved to be paralyzing for Herb.
"It's kind of like sitting on Jell-o its kind of hard to explain, it's a funny feeling to describe how open I was to be able to run and now I'm in a wheelchair." Said Forkel.
Guillain-Barre is a rare diagnosis, infecting only one in 100,000 people on average. Herb's case is even more of a rarity, his syndrome stemmed from a West Nile Infection and an unlucky mosquito bite. It's been more than five weeks since his diagnosis and Herb is working everyday to get back on his feet.
"We stopped the progression but there is still damage in his leg so we have to keep working on his rehab." Said Dr. Yoo.
"There were a couple days where I was like what do you do? For now I guess I've excepted the fact that I'm going to fight back and with the help of the doctors at Avera St. Luke's we're making small steps everyday." Said Forkel.
Herb is going through vigorous physical and occupational therapy to regain his muscle strength and balance. If caught early enough, like Herb's was, most people do regain the functions they lost to Guillain-Barre. However, it's not an easy path.
"He's shown progress but it's going to be a slow progression but he's done a great job and been very, very patient and I'm very proud of him." Said Dr. Yoo.
Herb is still bound to his wheelchair but says he gets a little stronger everyday. Maybe it'll be tomorrow, maybe next week, even he doesn't know when. But given his determination and the help of specialists at Avera St. Luke's, Herb will walk again.
"I'm gonna beat it! The day I walk down the deal over there and take my first steps I'll probably have tears in my eyes!" Said Forkel.
With the winter cold setting in the West Nile Virus danger has dropped but Herb's story should serve as a reminder to always keep the repellant with you.
For more information about Guillain-Barre Syndrome or the rehab program at Avera St. Luke's just call 877-AT-AVERA.