PORTAGE, Michigan — In August, a Portage teen wasn't feeling well, and today, she can't speak, said Chris Mills, the Media and External Relations Specialist with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
Savanah DeHart, 14, was diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) on Aug. 25. To date, the virus has affected 10 Michigan residents — four of which cases were fatal — and 39 animals in 16 counties.
Severe headaches were among DeHart's initial symptoms which prompted her mom to take her to Bronson Methodist Hosptial in Kalamazoo. She underwent weeks of care and at one point, doctors thought she wouldn't make it, Mills said.
DeHart was suffering from swelling that was putting pressure on her brain stem.
Currently, she is in a "medically stable condition" at Mary Free Bed, whose care she has been under since Sept. 9, Mills said.
Her doctors are seeing signs of improvement and are expecting "continuous recovery," according to Mills. She's aware; she responds to people's commands such as moving her arms and legs when she's asked.
When humans are infected by the EEE, it can cause significant brain damage and even death, said Dr. Douglas Henry with Mary Free Bed, who is treating DeHart.
The virus affects people in different ways. Mills compared it to a stroke or a brain injury where people's recovery process differs.
While DeHart is recovering slowly, Mills said all of the signs are positive. Her mom, Kerri Dooley is describing her daughter's recovery process as a "marathon, not a sprint."
DeHart is expected to remain under Mary Free Bed's care for two to three more months.
A Facebook page has been made to update the public about DeHart's progress.
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