BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico family thought it was the flu, but it turned out to be a lot worse: the West Nile virus. It's impossible to know exactly where it happened, but the family says it was definitely in our state.
It was a Friday when Ona Bernal went on family vacations and was lying on medically induced coma on Monday night. Now, months later, Bernal is still in the hospital fighting the West Nile virus.
It is not lost love. It is a love that has changed forever.
"I said to him, 'If you're feeling better, we'll have to go fishing,' and he looked at me and started crying, 'said Ona's son, Chase Bernal.
Days on the river, time with his family, loves Ona Bernal.
"Almost all my life I spent with him outside to do the things we love," Chase Bernal said.
That's far from the life he's living now.
"Someone who is so wonderful and so good and uses his whole life for you, must be so trapped," said Ona's wife Mendy Bernal.
Mendy Bernal and her husband Ona left their home in Belen in August to urgently treat what they considered the flu ̵
"It took a long time to figure out what he actually had," she said.
The official diagnosis of West Nile virus was made when Ona had already fallen into a medically induced coma.
"He will not make a full recovery," Mendy said.
He is awake now, but he has lost nearly 50 pounds, can not speak and is completely paralyzed.
"Ona is a very strong man, very active," said his wife. "He trained every day, he ate sardines every day, and he was proud to be able to keep up with Chase, which was a real shock."
The doctors believe that once-active and happy Ona will need a wheelchair and a respirator to breathe for the rest of his life.
"Who would have thought that a small mosquito could harm so many lives?" Mendy said.
Although they are different then and now, the Bernal family is grateful that they have not lost much of the man they all love.
"I did not know until my dad was unable to talk to me, but I realized he was the best friend I've ever had," Chase said.
"He was my best friend," Mendy said.
Bernal's long-term care will depend on his progress over the next few months, but whatever it is, it will be expensive. Bernal has a GoFundMe set up. To donate, click here.
According to the health authorities, the best protection against the West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. This year, there were 39 cases in the state, four of which were fatal. In 2018, there were only seven cases.