CLARKFIELD - Jerry Livermore and his wife ValLorice have been custodians at Clarkfield Lutheran Church together for about 35 years, and last year the church repaid their loyalty when Jerry was stricken with an unusually severe case of West Nile virus in July 2010.
"He had a cold for a few days," ValLorice Livermore said, "and one day he said, 'I feel funny, I don't know what's wrong.' By that evening he couldn't really talk, his hands were shaking, and he had a fever of 105."
An ambulance took Jerry Livermore to Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. From there he was taken to Sioux Falls, S.D., and from there to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester where he spent 43 days in intensive care on a ventilator with a feeding tube.
Photo by Steve Browne
Jerry Livermore was struck with West Nile more than two years ago. He’s back working as a janitor at Clarkfield Lutheran Church.
Forty-three days he cannot remember to this day.
"He had a staph infection and pneumonia, but they were on top of it," ValLorice Livermore said. "But it was some scary time before he went back to Sioux Falls."
After four-and-a-half months in the hospital and another five months in rehab at Avera Marshall, Jerry Livermore returned to work at Clarkfield Lutheran last spring. During his absence, his son and son-in-law covered for him at the church.
"I feel excellent," he said. "My main problem is with balance. My biggest fear is falling. I fell in the store once."
Jerry Livermore, who worked as a carpenter up until the day he got sick, operates vacuum cleaners and a floor buffer from his wheelchair. He can use a push broom and duster with a walker and cuts grass in the cemetery strapped into a riding mower.
To help him get around, Clarkfield Lutheran Church and the Clarkfield Lions club had a benefit to buy a handicapped accessible van. About 450 people showed up.
"It only had 3,000 miles on it," ValLorice Livermore said. "That was a big plus because he was going to Marshall five days a week. That was really important because he couldn't move much, but he's doing great now."
Though walking is still an effort, he's making progress standing on his own.
"Now I can stand balancing about 10 minutes," Jerry Livermore said. "A year ago, it was 15 seconds."
Recovery has been slow and painful, but the last scan at Rochester showed no brain damage.
"Doctors in the hospital said he'd never be 100 percent," ValLorice Livermore said, "but he's trying for 90."