“She really taught us to live every day to the fullest, to be positive and to love other people,” said Karen Kennedy’s daughter Kelly Glenn.
LITTLETON, Colo. — Colorado is experiencing the worst outbreak of West Nile virus in the U.S. this year according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). To date, 543 cases have been reported in Colorado, including 31 deaths.
The family of 78-year-old Karen Kennedy told 9NEWS she was one of them. Kennedy died on September 16 with her family present.
“She really taught us to live every day to the fullest, to be positive and to love other people,” said her daughter Kelly Glenn. “We never thought Mom’s story would be like this.”
Kennedy is remembered as a woman who always celebrated family. Her other daughter, Laura Downie, took a photo of Kennedy at her granddaughter’s homecoming parade just days before her death.
“I had no idea that the next time I saw her she would be completely confused and barely even know who I was,” Downie said.
Downie found her mother disoriented on her couch after she didn’t answer the phone. She was taken to the hospital. Downie said doctors initially thought Kennedy had pneumonia and sepsis.
“And then they said we think she might have West Nile virus and brain inflammation as a result,” she explained. “This is a woman, not even a week ago, we were at lunches and parades and now they’re saying she wasn’t going to make it and so we had to make the hardest decision of our lives to take her off life support.” , Downie added, beginning to cry.
So far this year, Colorado has had the most cases in the country. In fact, Colorado has recorded more than twice as many cases as No. 2 California, which has 156 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been a total of 1,419 cases of West Nile virus disease in 44 states nationwide.
“It’s shocking to me because I didn’t know a mosquito could be something that could be so powerful,” Glenn explained. “Even if it was just one person, it’s important that people know this is happening.”
Karen was a cancer survivor. She was also able to watch her grandchildren grow, as her garage wall has been covered in height markings over the past few decades. Her absence may be painful, but her family hopes she has meaning for others.
“She was a nurse and was very interested in health care,” Downie said. “She wants people to know and for my story to do something for others,” Glenn added.
“Maybe when some people hear this story, they’ll put on mosquito repellent and take this really seriously because it hit our mom,” Downie continued as she cried.
Despite decades of research, there is still no cure for West Nile virus. Doctors can try to treat some of the symptoms, but there is no way to reverse the virus. There is also no vaccine to prevent the virus in humans.
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