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'The Miracle Man' reflects on West Nile Virus one year later

Dave Workman earned the nickname, "the Miracle Man," as he battled a severe form of West Nile Virus in 2018.

On Thursday, most of us will have Thanksgiving with family.

For Dave Workman, his family feared he would not be alive for Thanksgiving last year.

Dave Workman underwent months of rehabilitation and was able to beat a severe form of West Nile Virus, meningitis and encephalitis.

On Your Side’s Troy Kless spoke with Workman one year later on how he overcame this disease.

Last year, Workman sat down for an exclusive interview talking about his battle with West Nile Virus. He says he does not even remember that day.

He says he lost some of his physical strength and his memory but through this ordeal, he gained a new sense of appreciation, for his faith, and his family.

Workman says he’s hardly lost a step.

You can see him catching up with old friends at his son’s fishing shop, Strike Zone Fishing.

Making sure everyone is happy.

“I mow the yard, do some raking, I can’t pull a lawnmower or have power tool strength, but other than that I do pretty well,” Workman said.

A year ago, Workman was on a feeding tube and taking speech therapy seven days a week.

After a fishing trip in September, Workman fell ill.

One day he was on the floor and couldn’t stop dry heaving.

His wife Melissa Workman knew something wasn’t right.

“It was emotional, the kids watched him at the worst,” she said.

“One of the neurologists came in and wrote on a dry board ‘possible,’ encephalitis, meningitis, West Nile, he came in four days later and erased the possible off,” she said.

They faced this up-hill battle head-on.

“It’s pretty rare for people who would be that sick," Dr. Kenneth Ngo, medical director of the brain injury rehabilitation program at Brooks said. "Normally people with West Nile Virus don’t even have any symptoms, 2 out of 10 would have symptoms, and one out of ten would have severe symptoms like him.” 

Ngo worked alongside the Workman family from the worst moments to the best.

“Medically he should not have lived, and our faith brought us through all these months of having faith of what was going to happen at the end,” Melissa Workman said.

Faith along with the supportive treatment.

He underwent months of physical therapy before returning to normal life.

Even after beating the virus, there are still many unknowns about the virus, which is carried by mosquitoes.

Last year, Workman was one of 12 people with West Nile Virus in Duval County.

This year, only three people have it according to the Florida Department of Health.

Ngo says there’s no vaccine for the virus. But supportive treatment for those individual symptoms of West Nile can help.

It did the trick for Workman, who faced West Nile in a severe form.

He now wants to share his story of how faith, love and support saved his life.

“You have to be thankful for your wife who has been here for 59 years and I’m very thankful for that,” Dave said.

“It was the worst, best time of our life, we learned so much about each other and where our faith was,” Melissa Workman said. “God’s got a reason for this and I firmly believed every day that if he lived that’s what God wanted”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the best way of dealing with West Nile Virus is to prevent getting the virus in the first place.

The CDC suggests using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and taking steps to control mosquitoes indoors and outdoors.

For babies and children, the organization does not recommend using products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under 3 years old.

The CDC recommends using screens on windows and doors and stops mosquitoes from laying eggs in or near standing water. They suggest cleaning or throwing out items that hold water such as tires, buckets, planters.

You can find more tips on the CDC’s West Nile prevention website.