BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico family thought it was the flu, but it turned out to be much worse: the West Nile Virus. It’s impossible to know exactly where it happened, but the family says it was definitely in New Mexico
It was a Friday when Ona Bernal left on a family vacation, and by Monday evening he was in a medically induced coma. Now, months later, Bernal is still in the hospital, fighting the West Nile Virus.
It’s not a love lost; it’s a love forever changed.
“I told him, ‘When you get better, we gotta go fishing,’ and he looked at me and he started crying,'” Ona’s son, Chase Bernal, said.
Days on the river, time with his family, is what Ona Bernal loves.
“Almost all my life has been spent with him outside doing the things we love,” Chase Bernal said.
That’s all far from the life he’s living now.
“Someone so wonderful and so good, who put his whole life out for you has to be trapped like this,” Ona’s wife, Mendy Bernal, said.
Mendy Bernal and her husband, Ona, left their Belen home in August heading to urgent care to treat what they thought was the flu — but he hasn’t been back since.
“It took a long time to find out what he actually had,” she said.
The official West Nile Virus diagnosis came when Ona had already been put in a medically induced coma.
“He will not make a full recovery,” Mendy said.
He is awake now, but he’s lost almost 50 pounds, cannot speak and is completely paralyzed.
“Ona is a very strong man, very active,” his wife said. “He worked out every day, he was eating sardines every day, he prided himself on being able to keep up with Chase so it was a real shock.”
Doctors believe the once always-active and happy Ona will need a wheelchair and a ventilator to breathe for the rest of his life.
“Who would know one little mosquito could cause such damage to so many people’s lives?” Mendy said.
Though then and now are different, the Bernal family is thankful they haven’t lost the man they all love so much.
“I didn’t know it until my dad wasn’t able to talk to me, but I realized he was the best friend I ever had,” Chase said.
“He was my best friend,” Mendy said.
Bernal’s long-term care will depend on his progress within the next few months, but whatever it is, it will be expensive. There is a GoFundMe set up for Bernal. To donate, click here.
The Health Department says the best way to protect yourself from West Nile Virus is to avoid mosquito bites. There have been 39 cases in the state this year, four of them fatal. In 2018, there were only seven cases.