Xavier Magazine

West Nile Survivor: Walking Tall

In August 2012, two months after returning from a trip to South America with his class of Executive MBA students, Jeffrey Daniel was at the halfway mark and looking forward to graduating in May.

But by early September, shortly after classes resumed, Daniel was in a coma, near death and paralyzed. At the hospital, he was put on a ventilator so he could breathe. Doctors concluded the cause was West Nile virus, which he’d apparently picked up from a mosquito bite at home in Cincinnati.

In the following weeks, the weight on his 6’2” frame plunged from 238 pounds to 170. He saw the bones of his legs beneath his skin.

From those depths, however, Daniel showed the physical and spiritual fortitude that had helped him play football at, and graduate from, the U.S. Naval Academy. The strength wasn’t only his, he says. He relied on his wife, his faith, his coworkers from Ethicon, and Xavier’s MBA staff, professors and students for support.

Daniel and his wife, pediatrician Evelyn Jones Daniel, were told that West Nile patients rarely walk again. But that October, he started physical therapy that got him out of bed for daily workouts. He left the hospital two months later determined to resume his former life and his MBA classes. “When I came back from the hospital, I couldn’t remember how to use my cell phone, I couldn’t remember how to use a calculator, but I said, ‘I’m going to go get my MBA.’”

Daniel returned to work and in July, two months after his MBA class had graduated, he returned to Xavier, still in a wheelchair, but ready to resume his studies. His wife drove him each night, but he wheeled himself in and out of class. He did his capstone course last fall, and on Dec. 19, his classmates surprised him with a graduation party.

Daniel, 52, is walking at commencement, which for him is no small task. He progressed to a walker, then a cane and now is walking on his own. He’s working on improving his gait and continues to regain feeling in his legs.

Daniel says earning his MBA from Xavier is his greatest accomplishment. “I’ve always had a soft spot for Xavier, so I feel really honored and blessed to be a Musketeer. It’s something to be really proud of.”