Already this year there have been a handful of people in Central Texas diagnosed with the West Nile virus. The mosquito-borne disease attacks the central nervous system and those who survive often face years of recovery.
Chuck Yarling is a veteran, University of Texas graduate, career engineer, tutor and tri-athlete. He has competed in 110 multi-sport races. His last race was in June of 2012.
He was supposed to compete in another race two months later, but that changed when he woke up one night feeling sick.
"I said 'I'm going to bed' and didn't make it. I fell into a coma. 31 hours later my brother Richard found me when I didn't show up to happy hour," Yarling said. He refers to Richard Blakely, his best friend, as his brother. He says that Blakely saved his life.
"He was pale, not moving, couldn't see any breathing and so I called 9-1-1," Blakely remembers.
Two weeks later, Yarling came out of that coma.
"Now my first thought- when am I going to race again?" Yarling said. Doctors told him probably never, he had a severe case of West Nile.
"It's a dual infection, syphilitics and meningitis, both of them affect the brain, but meningitis also affects the spinal cord," Yarling explains.
He lost nerve function in his legs. This happens to less than one percent of people infected with West Nile, and the road to recovery was going to be tough.
Yarling spent three months in in-patient physical therapy and two months at Blakely's house before moving into his own apartment.
In four years, Yarling has moved from a wheelchair to two walkers to one. He's made a lot of improvement, even competing in two indoor triathlons with Blakely's help.
"Never ever give up on anything, especially if you have a dream. Right now my dream is to walk," Yarling said.
He is working toward that goal with his best friend by his side.
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