PLANO, Texas – Ben Harris, of Plano, was on a dove hunting trip in west Texas last August when he fell ill. He was already feeling the symptoms of the West Nile Virus before he went on the trip.
His doctor said that he likely had something, "viral."
"I fell out of bed, and I couldn't move," Ben Harris said.
He was quickly rushed to a hospital in excruciating pain. He vividly remembers being taken by chopper to Medical City Plano. "At his worst, he lost 80% to 90% of function of his limbs," said Dr. Scott Van Poppel, the ICU Medical Director for Medical City Plano.
Several days into his hospital stay, doctors had diagnosed Ben with the neuro-invasive West Nile virus. Doctor Scott Van Poppel was part of a team of doctors and specialists treating Ben. He says the virus was attacking his spinal chord. "I was completely paralyzed. I was on a ventilator. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything for months," he said.
Harris, a former Plano Deputy Mayor Pro-tem, would spend six long months in the hospital. He'd end up missing time with his wife and two children like holidays and baseball games. One mosquito bite turned this seemingly healthy man in his 30s into a shadow of himself.
But it was the small improvements day to day that gave them hope. Like the time he simply crossed his legs. "Little stuff like that is what kept us fighting and going," said his wife, Abby Harris.
A year later and it's his children who help him get up the stairs. Mobility is still somewhat limited. Through rehab, he's had to re-learn how to move. Ben admits some days are tougher than others.
"I'd picture my kids and say this is why I gotta do it. I have to get back for them," Ben said.
Ben hopes his story inspires other people to keep fighting. He hopes people know that staying positive worked for him and can work for others. It is with the help of devoted family and friends that led him this far. He does not know how long his recovery will be or whether he will return to 100 percent.