9/25/13 WBRZ 2 Your Health News Story former patient, Russell Comeaux, on "Surviving the West Nile Virus"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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9/17/13 WBRZ 2 Your Health News Article on former patient Wess Anderson
BATON ROUGE - Saxophonist Wessel "Warmdaddy" Anderson is able to play again, after recovering from a stroke that left the right side of his body paralyzed. "The worst thing is probably, actually, getting into a hospital and understanding that you cannot move," he explained. "I didn't believe I'd be walking, I thought alright this is it."
Anderson spent more than 30 years as a professional sax player before the stroke last November. He spent 20 years playing with musical great Wynton Marsalis and is still the first string alto saxist with Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
"Regardless of if somebody says you might not ever play ever again, in my mind I said, oh no, I spent 30 years trying to develop this, I'm going to do something," Anderson said.
After the stroke he spent ten weeks at the Baton Rouge Rehab Hospital with a team of therapists working with him each day. He re-learned how to function on his own, to speak and to walk. At first he couldn't sit up on his own, or produce even a single note on his saxophone.
Anderson's therapists all agreed that his passion to get back to playing was key in his speedy recovery. "Playing the saxophone was something that was really huge for him," said said speech language pathologist Angela Wascom, "and we really worked on getting the lips tight so that he could blow into the mouth piece, and just having that, knowing that he wanted to play again really increased his drive."
Therapists used three types of electrical stimulation to help Anderson's muscles gain strength, including a therapy method used on actor Christopher Reeve to help force their legs to pedal a stationary bike and stimulation to retrain throat muscles.
"It just made the muscles contract to strengthen them in addition to exercises," explained Wascom. Less than a year later, Anderson regained about 90 percent of the use of his right side. He says he's still numb from his head to his toes on his right side, but at least he's got his sound back.He's performing at the Manship theatre Thursday at 7:30pm with "an Evening of Jazz with George Bell and Friends". For more information on the show call (225) 344-0334 or visit manshiptheatre.org.
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Hey Roxane,P.S. Also I do love all of the staff! All of you are wonderful.
I really enjoyed the stroke support group meeting today. I was starting to get a little down, but listening to everyone else really gave me hope. My doctor had told me that after 6 months, my recovery would be as good as it was going to get. After listening to all the other stroke survivors, I realized that I still have hope that I might have a chance to recover fully. Look forward to the next meeting. Thanks again.
- Debbie K, Baton Rouge, LA
I was so scared when I got here because I could not stand up or walk. But now I am able to exercise and can walk again!
Pedro, my physical therapist was just wonderful. He let me do what I thought I could do and then encouraged me to do a little more. It gave me the willpower to do better. i did not think I would accomplish all that I did while at BRRH and I would recommend it to everyone!
- Clifton H., Baton Rouge, LA