DECATUR, Ga. -- "I'm pretty sure that the mosquito that bit me, bit me right here," said Devin Lenz, motioning to the patio behind his Decatur home.

It's not everybody who can remember a particular mosquito bite from two years ago. But when you wake up paralyzed from the waist down because of it like Lenz, it's something you never forget.

"It attacked the motor nerves of my spine only, not my sensory nerves," Lenz explained. "So while I am paralyzed from the waist down, I can still feel my legs, which is kind of unique."

And while most people don't ever get any symptoms if they're bitten by a West Nile infected mosquito, Lenz nearly died after being rushed to the hospital.

"While I was there, I suffered respiratory failure," he said. "The virus starts low and progresses up. It wasn't until about four or five days later after they had done a spinal tap at Emory University Hospital that my spinal fluid was sent out, analyzed, and came back positive for the West Nile virus. They can actually see the virus with an electron scan."

Unlike most victims of the virus, Lenz was only 39 when he was stricken two years ago. Ironically, he used mosquito repellent all over his body, everywhere except for his feet, which is where he believes he was bitten.

His wife Jill was pregnant with their son Oliver at the time.
"You never realize what you have until something like that happens," she said. "Our families, our friends, even total strangers stepped in and did the most amazing things to help us... to get our house modified for instance. You don't want to have to count on that, but when you see people step forward, it makes your heart swell. It's wonderful."

Today Devin Lenz lives a full life. He swims, drives, helps take care of the kids, and even water skis.

He has used his experience to help create characters in a series of children's books.

Lenz credits the staff at Shepherd Center in Atlanta for helping him transition to what he calls his "new normal."

"That place is a temple of possibility," he said. "They treat not only the mind but the soul."

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