BPD Sergeant Paralyzed by West Nile

By  | 

The Brazos County Health Department continues to track three human cases of the West Nile Virus. One of the victims is a veteran Bryan police officer. Sergeant Donnie Manry has been treated since Friday and his case is among the most serious you'll find for West Nile.

Last week, everything was normal for Manry, but over about three days, the Bryan PD veteran of more than two decades began getting back pain, then a fever, and then, the unthinkable.

"My ability to walk and move decreased significantly each day," Sgt. Manry said. "The fever got higher, I hurt worse, and all of a sudden, I couldn't walk."

Since Friday, Manry has been paralyzed from the waist down, a man born to patrol Bryan's streets immobilized for a once-unknown reason. But tests have confirmed West Nile, and some of the rarest and near-worst case symptoms of it.

"I have the sensation, but I don't have any motor skills," Sgt. Manry said. "You can look at them [his legs], but they won't work."

According to the Centers for Disease Control's website, only one in 150 people with West Nile have serious symptoms. "The severe symptoms can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis," the site reads. "These symptoms may last several weeks, and neurological effects may be permanent."

Contrast that with the nearly 20 percent of people who carry the disease but only experience mild fever, head and body aches and nausea. That leaves some 80 percent of humans with West Nile who show absolutely no symptoms.

And according to the CDC, people over the age of 50 are more likely to develop serious symptoms if they don't receive treatment.

Progress for Manry now is very slight movement of his toes and feet, something he has achieved during his three days at St. Joseph Rehabilitation Center.

"I guess the best word to describe it is encouraged," said Manry's wife, Stephanie, "because he's gone from not moving his toes hardly at all to at least wiggling them back and forth."

But for a disease lacking a definitive cure, Sergeant Manry's treatment now is pain killers, hours of rehab and prayer that normal can be achieved again.

"It's pretty hard when you're sitting there, playing with the kids in the backyard one minute, and literally, four days later, all of a sudden, you can't walk," said Manry, choking back tears.

His fate is unknown, but when asked where he'd like to be in a week, Sgt. Manry gave not a place, but a feeling: "Just better."

The support of his friends and colleagues has meant the world to him. "They have no idea how much it helped to at least keep my spirits positive," he said.

"We've been keeping up the prayers for him," said Jeff Peters, a fellow Bryan PD officer. "Everybody's hopeful that he'll pull out of it, and I think he's looking a lot better than what he was."

The visits have been constant from people like Peters, who got his field training from Manry 13 years ago. For Bryan PD, Peters says this rare and powerful case of West Nile has brought the issue to their forefront.

"We've pretty well preached it at every shift briefing," Peters said. "Everybody's got new cans of spray. We hose down pretty regularly."

And for the Manry family -- Donnie, his wife and three kids -- their message is that West Nile, now prevalent across the region, can affect even the healthiest and strongest.

"It can happen to anybody, even a young, fit person," said an emotional Stephanie. "I just really ask everyone to take precautions, because I would never have thought it could happen to our family."

"People need to know that it can happen to you," added Sgt. Manry. "They need to listen. I can't stress that enough."

Take it from one crime-fighter in a major fight for his health, one whose best medicine might be optimism.

"We're going to get through it, and he's going to walk out of here," Stephanie said. "He's going to walk out."

To help prevent West Nile, use mosquito repellent with DEET, wear long sleeves and pants outside along with repellent at dusk and dawn, and clear all standing water near your home.

For much more on the disease, visit the CDC's West Nile website: