Man Contracts Rat Lungworm Disease in Hawaii, Paralyzing Ailment Caused by Microscopic Parasite
Eric Reinert, 22, lost 50 pounds, suffered pain, numbness and nerve damage, but says 'I'm getting better every day'
A microscopic parasite turned a man’s trip to tropical paradise into a medical nightmare.
Eric Reinert, a 22-year-old Minnesota man, has had to learn to walk all over again after contracting rat lungworm disease in Hawaii.
The rare and revolting bug lives in the bodies of rats and turns up in their feces. Snails and slugs often eat the droppings and lay eggs, contaminating water sources.
Rat lungform, or eosinophilic meningitis, can cause permanent nerve and brain damage.
Reinert, who was in Hawaii’s Puna district to learn about organic farming, told WCCO that the illness began with stomach cramps.
Things got worse quickly when the pain spread, leaving him bedridden.
“Just staying as still as I could on my back was the only way I could be at peace for a little bit,” he said.
After a few days, he was unable to cope with the agony and went to the hospital.
Luckily, a doctor figured out that Reinert had rat lungworm, most likely from eating fruits and vegetables that weren’t properly washed.
“A lot of people in Hawaii don’t know this exists, I didn’t know it existed,” said Reinert. “I wasn’t told about it because I’m sure the people I lived with didn’t know it exists.”
The diagnosis was good news but Reinert was still in big trouble. He had to stay in the hospital for nearly a month before being allowed to continue convalescing in his home in Watertown, Minn.
He had lost 50 pounds, experienced the numbness and nerve damage associated with the disease, and relies on a wheelchair.
Still, he’s making progress and his friends have raised $3,500 to help him pay his medical bills.
“Every day it gets a little better,” Reinert said. “It’s kind of a roller coaster with the pain, but overall, that’s what I tell everybody. Overall, I’m getting better every day.”
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