Medical Mystery: Man needs heart transplant after getting West Nile Virus

Nurse checking on Danny Sauer in his home
Nurse checking on Danny Sauer in his home

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge man is in a fight for his life. He is sitting at home waiting on a heart; but how he got there is somewhat of a medical mystery.

When you sit down and talk to Danny Sauer you begin to realize just how tough it is for the 39-year-old husband and father of two to sit still. His life is far different from what it was just two months ago.

"I'd be taking the kids to soccer practice and picking them up from swim and kicking the ball with them and just doing normal stuff that parents are supposed to do," Sauer said.

He's never been a couch potato but these days it's all he's got. Doctors have him on a strict diet and the on a very limited activity schedule.  A nurse visits his home each day to test his vitals, update his medications and check his blood.

Sauer has an illness called Viral Cardiomyopathy. Sauer said he was diagnosed with the disease a couple of years ago when he went to the emergency room for what he thought was a kidney stone.

"Come to figure out it wasn't kidney stones but clots going into and killing my left kidney. That was the pain that I was feeling."

The clots were coming from a pool of blood doctors found at the bottom of his heart.

"The sad thing is it's not genetic. It's not something you can plan for. It's not inherited. It's just something that gets you."

Sauer said, doctors told him two years ago it was an illness that had developed from a case of West Nile Virus he caught while vacationing in North Carolina during the summer of 2000. Ten years later, his body was still fighting the encephalitis.

"That illness was weakening my heart and my body was compensating for it."

Doctors prescribed him a cocktail of daily medications but two months ago, Sauer said, he became very weak. Doctors told him he would have to have a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, installed while he waits on a heart transplant. The LVAD is like a small motor that keeps his heart running.

"It's controlling my blood flow. So literally it's on left ventricle. It continually pumps blood through my body."

Sauer said he's not sure he'll ever understand the medical mystery but he says his progress is nothing short of a miracle.

Danny's wife, Tricia, has started a blog documenting his progress. You can read it at

The Sauer's have asked for help with medical expenses. You can donate at

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