Portrait: Jelena

Jelena's story helps raise awareness of the potential effects of a mosquito bite that carries the West Nile virus.

A little bit about Jelena 

I was diagnosed with meningitis encephalitis due to a West Nile virus mosquito bite.   At first, it started like a normal virus: I had a fever, muscle weakness, and diarrhoea. After a few days, I felt that my symptoms were getting worse and my muscle weakness was increasing. My neck and arm on the right side were also stiff. I could not walk and often I was not aware of where I was. 


My diagnosis and early recovery 

I was diagnosed by an infectious disease doctor. My treatment included an infectious disease specialist and a neurologist at the hospital. When I got out of the hospital, it was found that my peripheral nervous system was destroyed, and it completely shut down the right side of my body. I couldn't walk on my own. I had frequent neurologist appointments and had to go to physical and occupational therapy. 


The road to recovery 

My biggest supports are my mom, my sister, and my boyfriend, Savo. They helped me find myself again. I like to read books, watch movies and television series, and solve crosswords puzzles.   

One of the successful moments during my recovery was when I lifted my right leg without the help of my hands. It's amazing how small things that we don't think about on a daily basis can become big successes.     

What was missing from my recovery

In Serbia, there is very little awareness of the existence of the West Nile virus. I was also not informed about this virus and its consequences. When I arrived at the neuroinfectious department, I was the youngest person there. I was only 27 years old. Statistically, I belong to less than 1% of people in the world who are seriously ill and are less than 30 years old. 


The advice I would you give to other survivors and caregivers

Never give up. Life gives you two possibilities. The first is to fall and the second is to fly even when one of your wings is broken. I am sure that if you choose to fly into the storm with a broken wing, you will survive. Will is greater than fear. 


A helpful quote during my recovery 

You control your mind and your body. 

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