Northeast Tarrant

Her son caught a rare mosquito-borne illness. Now she’s afraid it could happen to others

Kelli Stewart can’t let her guard down although cooler weather is here, and people aren’t thinking as much about mosquitoes and the consequences of getting bitten.

But the recent rain and standing water near her home are a constant worry for Stewart, whose 9-year-old son, Brayden, was diagnosed with a rare mosquito-borne illness two years ago.

Life has not been the same for her family.

Her sons never leave home without mosquito repellent in their backpacks, and if a trapped mosquito tests positive for the West Nile virus near the playground at her children’s elementary school, they cannot go out for recess.

Stewart is upset that Bedford doesn’t ground spray. The city uses other methods to combat the mosquitoes.

“My concern is the standing water in our city, and not spraying. We have done our part as property owners and have done everything to keep standing water at a minimum,” Stewart told council members recently.

She worries that the rain will make things worse.

Before he got sick, Brayden played soccer and was very athletic. Now, he tires easily and has difficulty focusing on tasks.

Bedford’s public works director, Kenny Overstreet, told council members that Bedford treats creeks with larvicide to keep the adult mosquito population down and targets trees with spray if trapped mosquitoes test positive for the West Nile virus.

Ground spraying isn’t as effective because it doesn’t reach people’s back yards, Overstreet said.

Other nearby cities including Hurst, Euless and Colleyville spray for mosquitoes. Last week, the Forest Hill City Council voted to spray.

Since July 2016, Stewart and her husband, James, have constantly watched over Brayden, making sure he is drinking the water he needs every day to stay hydrated.

James and Kelli Stewart recounted what happened when their son came home from a sleepover at a friend’s home in July 2016.

They were watching a Texas Rangers game on TV when Brayden had a seizure and was rushed to Cook Children’s Medical Center where he stayed for two weeks.

When Brayden came out of his seizure, they realized that they had a “special needs child.” They described how Brayden had to learn how to walk and talk again.

Although Brayden has the markers for the West Nile virus, doctors say that he doesn’t have West Nile. Instead, he has a disease so rare that it hasn’t been named, his mother said.

But the disease caused swelling in Brayden’s brain, and he must drink 100 ounces of water every day to stay hydrated since his brain “sucks up” water.

He is now back in school and is back to playing soccer, but he often lacks energy and his short-term memory is also affected.

“Things have changed a lot,” Brayden said. “I often don’t want to do things. I don’t want to get off the couch. I just want to read.”

Brayden and his parents said there is no way to know where he was bitten or how long it took for him to become ill, but his condition affects the family.

Brayden recalled coming home from his friend’s house two years ago and took a two-hour nap.

“After I woke up, I felt like I was someone who I wasn’t supposed to be,” he said. “I felt like I was a different person.”

Brayden’s parents said they constantly work with their son and make sure he is getting out in the sun and staying active.

“We didn’t let him be extremely lazy,” Kelli Stewart said. “Then I read about the West Nile virus and emotionally, I thought, oh my gosh, my poor baby is hurting.”

But she said her son is recovering faster because he is back in school and taking part in sports and things that he enjoys.

Elizabeth Campbell: 817-390-7696, @fwstliz

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