Local West Nile Virus Survivor Recovering, But Slowly

BEVERLY HILLS (CBSLA) — One day he was dancing with his daughter. The next a Beverly Hills philanthropist was on the floor and didn’t know who she was.

CBS2/KCAL9’s Danielle Gersh reports on the West Nile virus that paralyzed Marvin Markowitz and his journey to rise again.

“I felt the angels of death coming to take me on that flight,” said Markowitz.

Markowitz is reflecting back on a medical nightmare that has transformed his life.

“I was aware of the fact that I was potentially losing it,” said Markowitz.

The life he knew took a sudden turn Aug. 12, 2014.

“I hate to even think about it,” said Markowitz.

His ordeal started in the middle of the night. He woke up. Then collapsed.

“I couldn’t move at all,” said Markowitz.

He was admitted to the ICU at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“At first I was treated for a stroke,” said Markowitz. “I was treated for a heart attack.”

But as the days went by his condition only got more desperate and more mysterious.

“He started losing movement in his legs,” said daughter Amanda Markowitz.

Amanda is one of Marvin’s three daughters.

“And we were all hysterical saying to the doctors ‘is he going to walk again? Is he going to walk again?’ “, said Amanda Markowitz.

But over the next 10 days his ability to walk mattered less and less.

“He started losing his mind essentially,” said Amanda Markowitz. “He didn’t know who I was anymore.”

Marvin was locked  inside his own body. Unable to move. Unable to speak.

Eventually, CDC disease detectives discovered the cause.

“I never saw myself get bitten,” said Markowitz.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Blood tests revealed Markowitz had West Nile virus.

The culprit?

“A mosquito that I never met,” said Markowitz. “Everyone was so stunned.”

Markowitz hadn’t traveled. An infected mosquito had come to him.

“It happened right here. Somewhere around my home in Beverly Hills,” said Markowitz.

And it’s happening all over the state.

At least 315 Californians have been diagnosed with West Nile virus with year.

91 of those cases in L.A. County.

And 40 of the L.A. cases were reported since mid-October.

After Markowitz tested positive, L.A. Vector Control scoured his neighborhood for mosquito breeding grounds.

“And they found waters infected in stagnant swimming pools,” said Markowitz. “Right in the heart of Beverly Hills.”

Markowitz now has artificial turf in his own backyard.

“Yeah. No water,” said Markowitz.

And he’s back to work. But he works from home now. In between sessions with his physical therapist.

Recovery from West Nile virus can take years and is often excruciating.

Each muscle paralyzed needs to regain function and then build up strength.

After three years on his back or in a chair, Markowitz says “it’s great to almost look eye to eye with people.”

“I feel like I never get to look at you from this angle. I love it so much,” said Markowitz.

Markowitz hopes it won’t be long before he can rise on his own and give the machine to someone else who needs it to stand.

In the meantime, “this is my new normal. It’s much than a year ago, which is better than two or three years ago,” said Markowitz.

So despite all that he’s been through and the tough road still ahead, Markowitz says he is grateful.

“And if it can help make a difference for someone I’m grateful,” said Markowitz. “Don’t give up hope.”

To protect your family clear standing water from your home and cover up or use mosquito repellent if you’re outdoors when mosquitoes are most active at dusk and at dawn.

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