‘It’s a miracle’: Hastings man sickened by EEE leaves hospital

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It took just one mosquito bite to put Jeff Wescott in the hospital and eventually Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

On Friday, the day he was set to go home, his wife had a message.

“Awareness, clothes up, put your DEET on,” Tina Wescott said.

Her advice came after a nearly a monthlong ordeal for the couple.

Jeff Wescott, 58, wasn’t feeling well in late August. Within days, he was hospitalized and fell into a coma.

“I thought I was going to lose him that first night at Butterworth (Hospital). I really did,” his wife said.

Wescott was diagnosed with Eastern Equine Encephalitis — a mosquito-borne illness that, while rare for humans, can prove fatal when its symptoms become serious.

There is a vaccine for horses, but not for humans.

A courtesy photo of Jeff Wescott of Barry County, who is suspected to have Eastern Equine Encephalitis.
A courtesy photo of Jeff Wescott of Barry County, who contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

As of Friday, Wescott was the only confirmed human case of EEE in Michigan this year. However, there’s another suspected human case in Montcalm County.

The state lists 32 animal EEE cases across 13 counties, including Allegan, Barry Calhoun, Ionia, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm and Newaygo.

While the odds were against him, Jeff Wescott bounced back. His rehab helped train him to walk and breathe.

“It’s retraining the muscles in your brain for the signals to come down to be able to have enough breath to move your vocal cords to talk,” his wife said.

But Wescott’s recovery is far from complete.

“It’s going to be a daily struggle, and it’s going to be a slow process. But he is progressing and that’s the things that we want to see every day,” his wife said.

Along with learning how to help her husband with his rehabilitation, Tina Wescott has become an advocate of sorts in the effort to control the spread of EEE

With one human case and some equine cases, Barry County decide to begin aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes carrying EEE.

Some on social media in the Wescotts’ hometown of Hastings didn’t react well to the move, but opinions changed when Tina Wescott posted her husband’s story.

“They responded very, very well. Lots of people from Hastings (are) praying for my husband,” she said.

While the Wescotts know they have a long road ahead, the progress Jeff has made so far has helped lighten the emotional load.

“When he came in, he couldn’t hardly walk. He was in a wheelchair,” Tina Wescott said. “And to have him walk out of here today, it’s a miracle.”