West Nile survivor returns home to Rapid City

Published: Jan. 5, 2018 at 4:29 PM MST
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It was a severe case of West Nile virus that caused Debra Gibson of Rapid City months of treatment and almost her life.

"I mean when they told me I had West Nile, I was like this is not any kind of West Nile that I've ever seen," she says.

It began in September with bad headaches, high fever, disorientation and a frightening coma, all symptoms of a serious neurological illness that only affects less than one percent of people infected, according to the CDC.

Mark Gibson, her husband, says "It's pretty scary, at first I really didn't think she was going to make it, I mean her breathing quit, her kidneys basically quit, and her system was shutting down."

She had symptoms so severe that she had to be flown to a long term acute center in Nebraska.

Deb says, "I don't remember anything, of being in an ICU, I don't remember flying to Omaha or none of that."

After maxing out her recovery there, Gibson began doing treatment at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital where she started working on her speech and learning how to walk again.

Finally on December 28., she had done enough rehabilitation to make her way back home to Rapid City.

Mark says, "she can remember not the incident, but before so I think things are looking up now."

These had memories of being in her garden, where she believes she contacted the virus. Despite it all, her family couldn't be more grateful to have her back home.

Mark Gibson, Deb's husband, says "It's great, we we're all very anxious, we all kept trying to push the doctor down there to let her out early and of course he wouldn't do it."

Although she still has to do treatment and this is something Gibson will deal with for the rest of her life, she's still in good spirits.

She concludes "I feel good, I'm glad to be home."

On January 13., there is a benefit planned for Gibson. The event will include a silent auction, a 50/50 drawing, and supper will be served.

All of the proceeds from the event will help pay for Deb's medical and travel expenses.