Michigan teenager makes slow recovery

Michigan teenager makes slow recovery

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Sometimes, Bryan DeHart looks at his teenage daughter, and wonders what’s going on in her mind. Does she realize it’s him sitting in front of her, talking to her, trying to coax a smile? 

“Does she know I’m her dad or am I a person she sees every day?” DeHart asked, tears welling up in his eyes. 

“That’s the sad part. … Am I a person that’s just coming into the room every day? So that part’s gotten me a few times. … Just knowing the fact that she knows it’s me or not is kind of a big thing.”

His daughter is Savanah DeHart, the youngest of 10 people in Michigan to contract the rare but deadly mosquito-borne virus Eastern equine encephalitis last year, in a record-setting outbreak of cases nationwide. 

Bryan DeHart checks in with his daughter Savanah DeHart, 15, during her rehabilitation at the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 to treat the debilitating effects of the Triple E virus. DeHart was likely bitten by a an infected mosquito last summer and suffered stroke-like symptoms.

The virus, also known as EEE or Triple E, causes severe swelling and inflammation in the brain. It robbed Savanah of the ability to walk and talk, stealing her distinctive laugh, the carefree, loving personality her family so loved and – possibly – even keeping her from recognizing her own father. 

There is no vaccine for EEE, no treatment and there’s no cure. Doctors can only offer supportive therapy to help patients breathe, get fluids and nutrition and prevent other infections. 

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