West Nile virus survivor arranges legislative tribute for Northern Colorado Long Term Acute and Rehabilitation hospital
Some people get West Nile virus without ever knowing it. When Ken Summers contracted the disease last summer, it easily could have been the very last thing he ever knew. The Fort Collins resident, who represented the Lakewood area for six years in the Colorado House of Representatives, was diagnosed July 22, 2013, with the mosquito – borne virus.
The disease set off a life-threatening spiral into meningitis, encephalitis and a previously undiagnosed autoimmune disorder called myasthenia gravis that put Summers on life support for several weeks. Then followed an almost four-month-long stay in two specialized hospitals in Johnstown just east of Loveland, relearning how to breathe and then to walk.
Summers was so grateful for the life- recovering care that he received at the Northern Colorado Long Term Acute Care Hospital and Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital that he asked Rep. Perry Buck, who represents the district that includes the hospitals’ campus, to sponsor an official legislative tribute.
Buck presented the tribute in the rehab side of the linked hospitals, with Summers and a large group of hospital staffers looking on. She noted that for eight years, the 10-year- old rehabilitation hospital has been ranked in the top 10 percent of almost 800 rehab facilities nationwide, and the acute-care hospital recently earned the Quality Respiratory Care Recognition designation from the American Association of Respiratory Care.
Summers, who walked slowly with the aid of a walker and sat for much of his speech, recounted his harrowing ordeal and praised the hospitals’ staff, “from physicians to the housekeeping staff to maintenance.” He said he continues to visit the rehab side weekly for outpatient therapy.
Elizabeth Bullard, chief operating officer for Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital, put Summers’ experience this way: “It was just over a year ago that he began a journey to the edge of life and back again.”
After the formalities, the hospitals’ leaders gave Buck a tour of both sides of the 40- bed facility, accompanied by Summers in a wheelchair.
At the doorway between the acute-care and rehab sides, Summers recalled what he thought during his six tough weeks in acute care — the part of it that he remembers: “One of these days we’ll pass through those double doors.” He added with a laugh, “It’s better than passing through the pearly gates.”
Summers said during his terms in theLegislature, he liked to visit the businesses and organizations in his district that were doing exceptional work, and he sometimes recognized them with official tributes. This particular tribute “had a very personal aspect,” he said, because the care he received “was vital to my recovery.”
“People are familiar with Craig Hospital,” the nationally known rehab center in Englewood. “This really is the Craig Hospital of Northern Colorado.”