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‘Every day is a struggle’: Laclede County woman speaks out after husband diagnosed with West Nile virus

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 7:18 PM CDT
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LACLEDE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - A Laclede County man has been hospitalized for several weeks with West Nile virus. Now, his wife is speaking out, trying to raise awareness about the dangerous disease.

Sheila Unger has been driving to and from St. Louis just to see her husband, Ronnie, who is hospitalized at Barnes Jewish Hospital.

“My husband went and spent the weekend with our son over by Lebanon High School. He pulled our camper over there for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And I spent the whole weekend there with them having bonfires out in the front yard.

“When he came back, Sunday evening, he was complaining of bad neckache, headache, diarrhea, being nauseous and it just went downhill from there,” said Unger.

The West Nile virus was not their first thought.

”First we thought it was COVID. We went to get COVID tested the next day,” said Unger.

Despite being in the hospital since July, Ronnie has never had COVID-19. After her husband was falling down a lot and not acting like himself, she took him to the ER at Lake Regional.

He was sent home, but the second time they made a trip to the ER, he was checked into the ICU.

”While he was at Lake Regional, they were doing all kinds of tests and they’re still doing all kinds of tests on him that he had while he was at Lake Regional. They’ve done blood work, urine work he did for plasma transfusions. Every other day they were doing plasma transfusions on him,” said Unger.

Those tests revealed Ronnie had West Nile virus. Ronnie is still in the hospital at Barnes Jewish in St. Louis. Sheila says every day is a new battle.

”Every day is a struggle. It’s a day-by-day based. One day, he’ll have a good day. One day, it’ll be worse. He’s having bad headaches, bad anxiety. He’s having aches all over his body and stuff. He’s still paralyzed on his right side and his left leg. He’s starting to get a little movement back,” said Unger.

There are currently two cases of West Nile virus in the state, one in Laclede County and one in St Charles County, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Human Services.

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