April 22, 2024

Stricken with West Nile

Randy Stroud of Mt. Pleasant, is a large man, well over 6 feet tall. He used to weigh about 270 pounds. He is also a well-known business owner in Mt. Pleasant and marathon runner. So, when he came down with a backache after doing yard work in September, he and his wife, Marcy, didn’t think too much of it. Formerly from Indiana, Randy took off with a buddy for a Notre Dame versus Duke football game. When he returned, the backache had spread up his back. Within a couple of days, he was vomiting and had an unbearable headache. They knew something was wrong.

After multiple trips to two different emergency rooms, a doctor’s office visit and an admission to the University of Iowa Hospital, a spinal tap revealed West Nile virus caused by a mosquito bite.(Wear bug repellant!) Note: West Nile virus has all but been forgotten in the wake of the Zika virus, also spread by mosquitoes. But trust Randy Stroud on this one, West Nile virus is still around. And deadly.

Some people, when they get West Nile virus, don’t even know it. They may have flu-like symptoms and then recover. For others, like Randy, who also had encephalitis in 2001, it can be nearly fatal. Iowa recently recorded its first West Nile virus death in six years. Randy Stroud was close to being its second. Very close. In fact, Randy thought he was going to die. He asked a priest for last rites and they were delivered — something Randy doesn’t remember. A University of Iowa immunologist informed Marcy that Randy’s case was one-in-ten-million, and that it could be fatal.

Through the month of October, Randy didn’t sleep more than 45 minutes at a time. He was feverish and his entire body was racked with horrifying tremors that included his spleen, making it difficult to breathe. He had opsoclonus myoclonus syndrome — tremors of the eye and eye lid. He couldn’t remember where he lived, or how to write his name, or how to form letters. If he hadn’t been in such good physical condition from running, he probably would have died. Specialists at the University of Iowa Hospital paraded by to witness the one-in-ten-million case of West Nile virus. He was given three doses of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusions of a highly purified, carefully screened blood product that comes from the plasma of 10,000 to 50,000 donors, hoping there would be an antibody that would fight the infection. (Think mega bucks.) He was also given three massive doses of prednisone, which caused psychosis. There were times when Marcy couldn’t watch the agony her husband was going through. She had to leave at night to let the professionals at the University of Iowa Hospital do their work. Randy broke restraints and pulled out feeding tubes and IVs.

Finally, after a month of not sleeping and his body worn down from tremors, he began to show improvement. He was able to sleep some, like a drowning man grabbing for a life preserver. He was transferred to the Great River Medical Center in Burlington for rehabilitation. While there, as if he hadn’t been through enough, he suffered a gallbladder attack, which he thought was a heart attack, and his gallbladder was removed.

His stepson Pat is a First Team All-Conference football running back at Mt. Pleasant Community High School. Randy had to miss Pat’s football games, but listened to them streamed live on his smart phone. He also had to miss his beloved Cubs World Series Championship, which he watched, but can hardly remember.

However, Randy is recovering, a process that may take a couple of years, or a lifetime.

He has lost 50 pounds, and still has tremors, although not nearly as severe. He is looking forward to coming home and running again. His goal is to run the Indianapolis Half-Marathon in May. I am betting he makes it. Keep up the prayers.

He is very appreciative of all the great people and care he received at Henry County Health Center, the University of Iowa Hospital, and Great River Medical Center, and all the get-well wishes from friends and strangers on FaceBook. One Saturday, Marcy looked out the window of their house in Mt. Pleasant to see a church youth group raking their yard.

There will be a benefit for Randy on Dec. 4 at The Coffee Depot in Mt. Pleasant, of which Marcy and he are co-owners.

Contact Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526 or curtswarm@yahoo.com