BOSTON (CBS) – From the confines of a wheelchair, Mark Maynard described the partial paralysis that has radically changed his life. “I just didn’t have the strength to move,” says the 41-year-old Chelmsford man.
Maynard was a study in good health – but can’t walk now thanks to his wobbly legs, stiff torso, and weak arms.
“We’ve all been bitten by mosquitoes during our lives,” he says. “So it is certainly unusual to think that just one time you can get nailed like that. But it can happen.”
Maynard thinks it happened during an August 8th family cookout at his Mom’s new place in New Jersey, where hungry mosquitoes feasted on his bare legs.
“Simple as that – a backyard barbecue,” says Maynard. “But about a week later I started feeling really achy.”
He was sent home after his first visit to the Emergency Room at Lahey Clinic, only to be admitted the very next day when he couldn’t stand. Within days, public health officials confirmed Maynard as the first West Nile victim of the summer in Massachusetts.
We normally think of “Triple E” as the scariest mosquito-borne illness. Indeed, West Nile produces little more than flu-like symptoms in the vast majority of healthy folks. But it triggered a neurological nightmare in Maynard that has kept him in hospitals and rehab facilities ever since.
A battery of tests haven’t shed much light on why the virus has so tortured his spinal cord – or why relapses seem to spackle the recovery process.
“So that really kind of hurts me,” he laments. “I push myself only to get worse not better and feel like time is running out.”
Co-workers, clients and friends have started a GoFundMe campaign on Maynard’s behalf, to help cover mounting medical costs for the offset printer and photographer.
“It’s clear that I’ve got a lot of support,” he says. “Something to get started anyway. Makes me feel good.”
He hopes folks will take mosquito precautions more seriously than he did – like using repellent and covering exposed skin after dark when possible. “I don’t know what I’ll do when I see a mosquito the next time,” he admits.
Doctors have told him the road to walking again might take two years. “I’ve kind of grasped the idea of having to battle that long,” Maynard says.
So with the help of his wife Alex he grinds away at rehab, and says there’s no room for self-pity. Just getting back to 80 percent, he says, would be a huge win.