West Nile strikes Sanguinetti after hurricane

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; Natchez resident Frances Trosclair remembers her brother James Sanguinetti&8217;s activities surrounding Hurricane Katrina well.

Temporarily forced away from his house on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Sanguinetti was one of the lucky ones.

His house had only moderate damage. So he went to work helping neighbors get cleaned up.

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That&8217;s until flu-like symptoms set in. Originally diagnosed as a virus, Sanguinetti, 73, wasn&8217;t admitted to the hospital until several days after his first doctor visit.

When Trosclair first visited her brother, on the Sept. 19, he was having trouble speaking. She remembers her sister-in-law asking if he knew who his sister was. He pointed to Trosclair and said, &8220;Flossie,&8221; a name she&8217;d not heard before.

He was moved into intensive care shortly thereafter with a suspected stroke.

The Times-Picayune reported on Oct. 19 that Sanguinetti was one of two reported cases of West Nile virus in the wake of the hurricane.

After three weeks, two strokes and a tracheotomy, Sanguinetti has been transferred to a rehabilitation hospital in Covington. He is paralyzed on the right side of his body and beginning the recovery process.

While Sanguinetti shows symptoms of a stroke &8212; which could have been brought on by the virus&8217; weakening his immune system &8212; Natchez resident Sarah Salmon had completely different symptoms from her bout with the virus.

Salmon, 65, was infected in Natchez in September 2002. Though she got over her 102-degree fever and was back at work within a week, symptoms including a swollen left foot and tingling of her nerve ends on her left side sent her to the doctor.

&8220;It affected my blood pressure, sent it sky high,&8221; she said. &8220;It took a year to get it back down.&8221;

She still has periods where the nerves on the left side of her head tingle, but she considers herself lucky nonetheless.

She credited a support group for helping her deal with an illness nobody really understands.

&8220;People who have had it talk to each other about their symptoms, it makes you feel better,&8221; she said.

&8220;You could talk to other people (outside of the group), but they had no idea what you were talking about.&8221;

Salmon said she wanted to help spread the word about the virus in hopes that education will lead to prevention.

The Sanguinettis said they are doing a good job of letting family and friends know what James is going through.

E-mail updates written by his son, Jay, and Jay&8217;s wife, Lucy, keep loved ones posted on the steady, if slow, progress.

The younger Sanguinettis, of Hattiesburg, and Trosclair are among the family members who travel regularly to Covington to visit James and Claudette.

They&8217;ll make a special trip this weekend to wish Sanguinetti a happy birthday. Jay Sanguinetti has gathered nearly 100 cards &8212; including a &8220;who the heck is Flossie?&8221; card from Trosclair &8212; e-mails and letters which he is having bound to give his father as a present.

&8220;The outpouring of support has been incredible,&8221; his wife Claudette Sanguinetti said. &8220;I couldn&8217;t have made it without it.&8221;