One year after diagnosis, 26-year-old Emily Antley is back home in Granbury relying on help from her mom to get by day to day.
It’s a far cry from where she was last May, waking up and heading to work on a hog farm in Pampa, Texas after moving there with her boyfriend.
“I woke up Monday morning and noticed that I started to feel sick. Woke up with a headache and tried to get out of bed and needed help getting out of bed,” said Antley.
After 10 minutes with her doctor, she was wheeled across the street and into a hospital where she was admitted for one week.
“I noticed that my thought process had slowed down, and I started to stutter. I couldn’t talk as well as I had before. That was very alarming,” said Antley.
Doctors ran dozens of tests. When Antley had trouble standing, physical therapists asked if she’d suffered a major injury. But until that moment, the 26-year-old had lived a healthy and active life.
Still baffled, doctors made the decision to send her to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By late June, Antley finally received a name for the disease that stole so much of her life nearly two months prior.
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“The CDC had told me, ‘Well we’re sorry to inform you but this is an incurable disease and the only thing we can recommend is that you take something for inflammation,’ and that was it. That was all I heard over the telephone, so that was pretty devastating to me,” said Antley.
It’s a disease that attacks the central nervous system and causes inflammation in the brain. According to the CDC, only 1 out of every 150 people diagnosed with West Nile Virus suffers the effects.
Symptoms include fever, headache, neck and back stiffness, disorientation, tremors, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and even paralysis.
For Antley, they’re symptoms that are severe enough she was unable to return to work. It’s left both and her mom battling to pay the medical bills that continue to pour in.
But even as the virus continues to attack Antley from the inside out, she’s found a reason to stay optimistic.
“There are three important things in life here in this world, and that’s your mind, your body and your spirit. And when you lose two out of those three things and only have one to fall back on, then you just better use that one thing with everything you’ve got,” said Antley.
Which is why in addition to a Facebook community she created to connect with others who also suffer from the disease, she’s sharing her story to warn others how important protection against mosquitos really is.
“Everything in life happens for a reason. I want my community to protect themselves. I want my community, my Texas, my country, my world to know that they really need to value themselves and really value the life they have in front of them,” said Antley.