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Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Surviving the West Nile virus

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BATON ROUGE - One year after getting the West Nile virus, a local man is back on his feet.

Russell Comeaux was diagnosed with the virus Oct. 26 of last year.  He said what started out as a high fever ended up being a brush with death.

"I started to have respiratory failure, had the... feeding tubes, the whole nine yards, called in the family, priest, it was pretty bad," Comeaux explained. "I think a lot of people don't realize what the invasive kind of West Nile can do, I know I didn't."

Comeaux spent two months in bed and lost 60 pounds. He couldn't lift more than two pounds by the time he made it to the Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital. A team of therapists worked with Comeaux, first teaching him to sit up, crawl, then walk on his own. They said his recovery process was similar to working with a newborn child. He had so much muscle loss that he had to start from the very beginning, re-learning how to use every muscle in his body.

"It was a helpless feeling," Comeaux said. "You don't know what you can do, but they know what you can do and how far they can push you, you've got to have somebody pushing you."

Now Comeaux walks with the assistance of a cane. He continues to come in for therapy, driving himself, in order to work on balance and strength. He says he looks at life a little different now, appreciating every moment more than before his close call. He says this is his second chance to live, and he knows he is here for a reason.

"You don't know what you were saved for, but until you find out, you try to be a better person," he said.

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