You know how you hear of stories on the news? The shocking stories of a person catching an infectious disease and before you know it they are seriously sick or die soon after diagnosis? You read the headline, maybe listen to the whole 45 second blip on the news, and then move on, ‘cause that wouldn’t happen to your family? Yeah, me too. That all changed yesterday.

The phone rang just as my family sat down to breakfast. It was my cousin calling to say my uncle was very sick and hospitalized, he’d had a high fever earlier in the week and was becoming disoriented. When he started talking as though the last 20 years hadn’t happened, they took him to the hospital. The next call came later the same afternoon, and the news was not good. E.ncephalitis. After this call, my mother was on the phone most of the night with his family, her sister, and other brother. I spent the night comforting her as she cried. Comforting her in times of death has become an all-too-familiar experience over the last several years as she lost both her parents. In the last year or so she’s just come out of the depression she went into after her father passed away. Last night she had that same vacant sad look.

She and my dad went to see him in the hospital today. The information they got today was different than yesterday. It’s clear no one really knows what’s wrong or if he’ll get better. Yesterday the doctors said he does not have the one treatable type of encephalitis. Today they’ve started to treat it just in case and they (say) they’ll know Tuesday what type it is. But even the good news is bad. It may be treatable, but it could take 1 or 2 years before he could get better, or he could just continue to live with brain damage. Or he could die overnight. Or any day. It’s all very confusing to me, It seems as though every time my mother gets off the phone, the prognosis is different. It’s clear they just don’t know enough yet to really know what’s going on. The results due back on Tuesday should reveal if it’s W.est Ni.le or Trip.le E. W.est Ni.le, would apparently be better than Trip.le E.

Meanwhile, my uncle is very confused. He seems to have lost the last 20 years of his memory. He thinks everyone is in the Army with him. When he asks to go home, they tell him he has an infection in his brain and he needs to stay in the hospital to receive his medicine, and says oh. thanks for telling me. The conversation repeats five minutes later. He’s an antsy man, and this is still true now. He frequently jumps out of bed, which dislodges the IV transmitting his medication. The virus is also making him not hungry, so they are starting a feeding tube tonight or tomorrow.

We really have no idea how this will end. Of course we want him to make a full recovery. Soon. We don’t know if that’s possible. If not, we hope for some level of quality of life. We also don’t know if that’s possible. So for now we wait and hope Tuesday’s results bring more answers. All the while, scratching our heads in disbelief that this is happening to our family.

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