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Dallas Attorney Shares West Nile Survival Story

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A Dallas attorney narrowly survived his battle with the West Nile virus. Though an infected mosquito bit him three years ago, he’s still feeling the effect. He wants his story to serve as a warning to others.

Sitting comfortably in his East Dallas home, Sean Lemoine said, “I was lucky the West Nile wasn’t worse.” Lemoine ended up in the hospital in August 2009 after he was bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus. He remembers the day the mosquito bit him. “I was actually out on my front steps working on the marble with my son. We were getting eaten up by mosquitos. So, I said, ‘Let’s go inside.'”

They went inside and sprayed themselves with OFF. But it was too late.

“Five to six days later, I started having flu-like symptoms and went and got tested,” he said. The clinic told him he had a viral infection and that he should treat the symptoms and they would go away. “Probably a few days later is when the encephalitis set in. I was having blurred vision, inability to communicate. Thoughts weren’t working well.”

He finally called his wife and told her to take him to the hospital. “That’s pretty much the last thing I remember. I slowly slipped into a coma and had to be ventilated. And when I woke up, I was effectively paralyzed from the neck down,” Lemoine said. He was only 36.

It wasn’t until June 2010 that he could stand. He’s still recovering. “I’ve got pretty severe neurological impairment throughout my extremities. I breathe at about 45 percent capacity because the right side of my diaphragm is frozen,” he said. “There’s not bellow on the right side of my lungs. But my brain works. I didn’t suffer any mental deficiency.”

But Lemoine cannot lift 20 pounds. “Yeah, about 20 pounds. And if I fall down, I can’t get up,” he said. “The nerve damage was particularly severe in my right leg. So, my right leg can barely hold my weight up.”

Lemoine’s case is rare, particularly because of his age. But his story is worth the warning. His wife, Elizabeth, said, “It’s important that people are aware that even though it’s a freak occurrence, it can happen.”

The Lemoines now only spend brief moments in their yard during the summer, and only because they pay a company $70 a month to spray it for mosquitos.

A less expensive alternative might be found in the local hardware store. Ron Richard works at The Home Depot. He has a horticulture degree and knows more than you’d ever want to know about mosquitos. He picked up a bottle of mosquito spray and said, “We sell hundreds of this a week, and it increases almost every year.”

Brands like Cutter and OFF contain a synthetic form of chrysanthemum, which kills mosquitos. Richard said, “You can spray the yards, the bushes, the sides of the house, anywhere mosquitos might land.” They cost about $10 and cover 5,000 square feet. The typical yard is 3,700 square feet. The treatment lasts two to four weeks, depending on how much watering or rain dilutes it.

Lemoine can’t spray his yard himself. But he can tell others that they should. He said, “I would say that the cure is so much worse than the cost of prevention for West Nile. It’s not really a risk you want to take. Because it’s both physically, emotionally and economically devastating if you get the neuroinvasive form.”

Lemoine is a business attorney. He’s back at work full-time now. During voir dire, he asks potential jurors if they’ve ever known anyone who had West Nile virus, and then tells them they’re looking at someone who survived one of the worst cases of it.

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