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In Billings, two men are battling West Nile Virus



Billings, Montana – Following severe outbreaks of West Nile Virus, two men have spent several weeks in the hospital in Billings.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes, and while it doesn’t manifest symptoms in 80% of its victims, it can be dangerous and even fatal in those who do.

Jeremy Blasdel, a deputy with the Glendive Sheriff’s Office, is one of the individuals battling the illness. After missing work one morning due to illness, he claimed that the previous few weeks had flown by.

“I told (his wife) I need to get to the hospital,” Blasdel said. “I knew something was wrong. Since then, I don’t remember most of it. It was such a blur of just test after test after test.”

One of the tests eventually revealed Blasdel had West Nile Virus. He was life-flighted to Billings, where he is presently recuperating in the west side of the city’s Advanced Care Hospital of Montana.

“For him to just be down and out was very hard,” Blasdel’s wife Kimberly said. “It’s been a really hard time for our family.”

Dale Donoven, a resident of Williston, North Dakota, is also battling the illness at St. Vincent’s hospital. According to his wife Cheryl, he started to feel bad and was immediately life-flighted to Billings.

“By the time I saw him, he had a ventilator in and was in a drug induced coma,” Donoven said. “It was terrible. I didn’t know if I’d see him again.”

Fortunately, Dale is improving, even though he still has trouble walking and his memory is foggy.

“It just takes time,” Donoven said. “He still has to use the walker and he probably will when we get home for a bit, but it’s way better than it was a week ago.”

It’s likely that Blasdel will require more time to heal. He is battling facial paralysis on his right side and has mostly lost feeling in his right arm.

“I’m right handed and I lost function in my right hand,” Blasdel said. “I still can’t use it. I have to use my left hand to move it.”

Blasdel hopes for a full recovery because he can now slowly squeeze his right hand’s fingers.

“So far, we’re hoping that I can get back to normal but it’s hard to predict,” Blasdel said. “It could be weeks, it could be days, but it could take years.”

The fact that each patient is affected differently by the West Nile Virus is one of its most difficult aspects. Donoven is being treated by Erica Seas, a hospitalist at St. Vincent’s, who claims that the infection is unpredictable.

“It’s a viral infection,” Seas said. “So, there’s no targeted treatment for it. Most patients it does not affect, but for those that do, all we can do is try and provide relief and hope for full recovery.”

The community of Glendive arranged this event, which is fantastic news for the Blasdels. Jeremy and Kimberly expressed their sincere gratitude for the assistance.

“For me, it’s been super overwhelming,” Jeremy said. “That’s what has gotten me through to this point is the community support.”


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