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For West Nile virus survivor, every day ‘is blessed,' but he still has this goal
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One of David Carmon's cats walks past his chair Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, at his Gainesville home. Cameron continues to recover after a near deadly brush with the West Nile virus last summer. - photo by Scott Rogers

This may be confounding to some, especially given all that he’s been through, but David Carmon longs for the day he can trim bushes in the backyard of his Gainesville home.

“You can’t stop living, and I’m ready to get back to work,” he said. “I want to get out of this (wheelchair). It’s going to happen. It’s just being patient.”

Extreme patience, in Carmon’s case, as he’s still recovering from West Nile virus, one year after suffering a mosquito bite while doing yard work during Labor Day 2018.

Carmon, 54, was mostly hospitalized, including at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, until Feb. 1, 2019, when he was discharged.

“We were very apprehensive about coming home,” said Carmon during an interview last week at his home. “We didn’t know how we would do on our own.”

Initially, he was under 24/7 nursing care at home. That level of care has lessened somewhat over the months. And in June, he returned to Shepherd, which treats people with spinal cord and brain injuries, and other such conditions, to be weaned off a ventilator.

A 3-day visit turned into 14 days, said David’s wife, Jessie.

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David Carmon continues to recover at his Gainesville home Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, with wife Jesse. Cameron nearly died from West Nile virus last summer, and is still using a wheelchair, but his strength is coming back enough so that he is able to walk a bit. - photo by Scott Rogers

He’s off the ventilator, but will still have a tracheostomy tube at the base of his throat and diaphragm pacing system, a device that helps stimulate the diaphragm muscles and nerves, until June 2020.

Otherwise, David is breathing on his own.

“We still have the breathing machine for emergencies,” Jessie said.

“Now, it’s basically (physical) therapy,” David said. “I still have very limited use of my arms. My legs … are getting better.”

He also has undergone acupuncture, which “has woken up a lot of stuff,” he said.

“That’s been almost a miracle,” she said.

“I’m hoping with time to get better,” he said. “They say now about two years (for recovery).”

David’s ordeal has been a true nightmare.

It began with a simple household chore: trimming the bushes in his backyard.

“The next day, I had a rash over my entire upper torso,” he said in a January 2018 interview with The Times. “It was like a heat rash. It was on my chest and back.”

He went to see a doctor, who prescribed a steroid to treat what appeared to be a simple rash.

A couple days later, Jessie found her husband falling to his knees in the bathroom, as he was coming out of the shower.

“I thought it was a blood pressure attack, because that’s happened before,” Jessie said.

They went to the emergency room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

Doctors got his blood pressure under control and sent the Carmons home with medication.

At home later, David started feeling nauseous.

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David Carmon continues to recover at his Gainesville home Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, with wife Jesse. Cameron nearly died from West Nile virus last summer and is still in a wheelchair, but is regaining strength and able to walk a bit. - photo by Scott Rogers

“(He) went white and started sweating like crazy,” said Jessie, who had called a friend over for help getting him to the hospital. “... His legs were starting to give out, so we were having to carry him down the stairs.”

At first, doctors thought he had viral meningitis because his neck hurt so badly, she said.

A spinal tap was done to test for many things, including West Nile.

Before David got the diagnosis of West Nile, he had been treated with antibiotics and other drugs.

“But once the diagnosis came, the treatments stopped,” Jessie said. “There is no treatment for West Nile. It’s just managing the symptoms. But it’s like a doctor told me: It doesn’t matter what he has. It only matters that he gets better.”

The virus would go on to wreck David’s body, leaving him paralyzed and fighting to breathe — just struggling to survive.

During his stay at Shepherd, he had to relearn how to swallow, how to eat. Throughout the ordeal, he also endured tremendous nerve pain.

“If I could, I would have chopped off my left calf, it was so painful,” David said.

Over the months, David has drawn huge support from family and friends. Cards wishing him well covered the walls of his room at Shepherd. A GoFundMe account, “For the Love of David,” was started.

And Fight the Nile Golf Tournament, benefiting David, has been scheduled for Sept. 20 at Chicopee Woods Golf Course, 2515 Atlanta Highway.

There have been physical improvements at home, as well, including a wheelchair ramp to the front door built by Lanier Hills Church and creating a new, wider entrance to the couple’s bedroom.

“This is a hospital room,” Jessie said of the bedroom in a tour of the house. “We got (furnishings) out and got all of (medical equipment and supplies) in.”

The couple has relied on strong faith and the support of others in getting through the ordeal. A sign declaring “It’s all good” — Jessie’s favorite saying — above the bedroom door testifies to the couple’s positive attitudes.

“This has been terrible,” she said of the ordeal, “but a new blessing happens every day. And the kindness of this community — who knew? I knew we lived in a great place, but … the kindness and generosity of this community has been so humbling.”

Before the bite, David confessed, “I was getting cynical about people.”

That has all changed.

“Every day is a blessed day,” he said.

Fight the Nile

What: Golf tournament benefiting David Carmon, who has battled West Nile virus

When: Sept. 20

Where: Chicopee Woods Golf Course, 2515 Atlanta Highway

Noteworthy: The deadline for registration and sponsorship opportunities is Friday, Sept. 13. For more information, call 678-410-0688.

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