'Beating the odds': Michigan teen showing progress while recovering from EEE

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI (WILX) -- A West Michigan girl who nearly died from a rare mosquito-borne illness is making progress in her recovery.

Savanah DeHart (Mary Free Bed)

14-year-old Savanah DeHart of Portage started showing symptoms on Aug. 16.

Her family took her Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, but she wasn't getting any better and eventually had to be put on a ventilator to help her breathe.

At first, doctors thought the teen had meningitis. But after extensive tests doctors diagnosed Savannah with Eastern Equine Encephalitis just over a week later.

4 out of the 10 people in Michigan who contracted the infection have died from it in 2019.

Doctors told Savanah's family that she wasn't expected to survive.

She spent weeks in Bronson's intensive care unit before becoming stable enough to be transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Her doctor says she's slowly making progress but she has a long road ahead.

"She's still pretty limited. She cannot say any words. She cannot move her arms or legs very well. But she is starting to follow some commands and that is very encouraging," said Dr. Douglas Henry of Mary Free Bed.

Savanah's mother says she suffered mini-strokes while she was at Bronson, leading to brain damage.

Doctors don't know if that damage is reversible.

But Savanah's mother says she is "beating the odds" during her rehabilitation.

"I mean even when we first came here I don't think he prognosis was all that great I want to say. She's doing things that they didn't think she was going to do or sometimes a little quicker than they thought she might. But she's definitely beating the odds of what everyone thought, " said her mother, Kerri Dooley.

Dooley says she doesn't know if her daughter will ever walk again.

Savanah is currently undergoing several types of therapies every day.

“I just want her to be able to say, ‘Hi mom, hi dad’ and hug us.”

Dooley says everyone should be taking every preventative measure possible when it comes to mosquitoes.

You can find more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on the EEE outbreak here.

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