OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma man is on the road to recovery after a mosquito bite left him paralyzed.
"I didn't even notice a mosquito bite. It didn't leave a whelp. It didn't leave any mark," Joe Fenton told KFOR.
However, it was a mosquito bite -- and one that changed Fenton’s life in just a matter of weeks.
"It all started with missing a step and then it went from there to dragging my foot and then it went from dragging my foot to, more or less, my whole leg was paralyzed, my whole right leg," Fenton said.
Turns out, that tiny bite was from a mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus in a form so rare that it sent Dr. Mark Winchester, Medical Director of Valir Pace, back to the textbook.
"It left him, essentially, quadriplegic, with all of the things that go along with that with being completely stationary, to depending on others to do just basic movements," Dr. Winchester said.
Fenton’s combination of brain and spinal injuries first left him bedridden in the hospital for nine months, until he met the folks at Valir Pace and learned of a unique non-profit program that could provide him with the care and help he needs, free of charge.
"With Pace, he gets transportation to come here five days a week. Any time he doesn't feel good, we let the doctor know and he gets a doctor visit that day. He sees his nurse five times a week here to address his wound that was to the bone and big. Now, it's about to close," Christina Tilford, a physical therapist with Valir Pace, said.
His doctors and physical therapists said Fenton is making tremendous progress as he works on his mobility.
"My mobility is coming back faster, my ability to get up and do my exercises,” Fenton said. “I’ve noticed more, day after day, after day, that it's really falling into place."
Determined to walk again, Fenton goes to physical therapy several times a day. It’s that determination that doctors and physical therapists think just might be what gets him there.
"My biggest goal right now is just meet the next day. It's just one day at a time, that's all it is," Fenton said.
Medical staff at Valir Pace said they will work with Fenton, no matter how long it takes, on reaching his goal of walking again.