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Methodist Charlton Medical Center

Michael Hurtt – Methodist ICU Success Story

The sting of West Nile virus


July 19, 2016, was an ordinary summer day for Michael Hurtt, former mayor of DeSoto. He and his wife, Marilyn, were working at their family-owned business, West-Hurtt Funeral Home. “I felt fine,” Michael says. July 20 was another story altogether. When Michael tried to get out of bed the next morning, his leg buckled and he dropped to the floor.

“I was too amazed at what was happening to be frightened,” he says. He didn’t feel any pain. When Marilyn asked if she should call an ambulance, he answered, “Probably so.” The last thing Michael remembered was being lifted into the ambulance and told to cross his arms over his chest. Then the world went dark.

“We thought he’d had a stroke,” Marilyn says. However, Stephen Mueller, MD, intensive care physician on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, recognized the symptoms of West Nile virus, which is carried by mosquitoes and can cause encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain.

A specialized teamMichaelHurtt_250.jpg

Michael was placed in a medically induced coma in the Methodist Charlton intensive care unit (ICU) for two weeks to prevent his brain from swelling while his body healed. During that time, he was cared for according to the intensivist model of care, which involved daily rounding by Dr. Mueller and other critical care physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners, dietitians, pharmacists, and other specialists. This interdisciplinary team provides a high level of care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and co-manages and consults on all critical care patients at the hospital. Studies show that patients benefit from this model of care, with better outcomes and shorter hospital stays.

Michael does not remember much of his stay in the Methodist Charlton ICU, but Marilyn sure does. “Dr. Mueller saved Michael’s life,” she says. “He is a wonderful person and so caring. And the ICU staff was unbelievable. Hospital President Fran Laukaitis even stopped by to ask if we needed anything.” At that point, they didn’t know what the final outcome would be and whether Michael would be able to walk again.

After a month at Methodist Charlton, Michael was transferred to Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Mueller explained to Michael and Marilyn that the nerves and muscles invaded by the West Nile virus would have to be rebuilt. He was basically starting over. “It’s a slow, steady process.” Dr. Mueller says.

The next step — rebuilding

Michael and Marilyn say choosing Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital was the best decision they could have made.
“The speech, occupational, and physical therapy I received were intense, but my therapist knew I wanted to recover as fast as possible, so he really pushed me,” Michael says.

Before long, Michael could get out of bed on his own and had relearned how to walk and stand. Four weeks later he was able to walk with a walker, shower, dress, and care for himself.

“I expect to make a full recovery,” he says.

Surrounded by love

Michael credits his amazing recovery to several things — his wife and family, the community, local churches, and, of course, his care at Methodist Charlton and Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital.

“It’s hard to describe the good Lord working in our life like that,” Michael says. “We look forward to seeing what he has in store for us.”

A NEW SPACE FOR SERIOUS CARE Methodist Charlton’s ICU recently moved to a new patient tower, where rooms have updated technology and comfortable amenities. Take a virtual tour at MethodistHealthSystem.org/Charlton-ICU.

West Nile virus: What to watch for

While most people bitten by a mosquito infected with the West Nile virus will not get sick, about 20 percent develop an illness called West Nile fever. Symptoms include mild fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands.

In a small number of people — less than 1 percent — the West Nile virus enters the brain. This neuroinvasive form of West Nile infection is most common in older people and those with weakened immune systems. It can cause high fever, headache, stiff neck, lethargy, confusion, tremors, difficulty breathing, and even death.

West Nile fever generally improves on its own after a few days, though it can last up to several weeks. If you’ve recently been bitten by a mosquito and experience any troubling symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

From spring 2017 edition of Shine magazine

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