Courageous Twin Buttes toddler battling West Nile Virus

Benny Howling Wolf was a ball of energy with a crooked grin and playful demeanor. You couldn’t help but smile when the 3-year-old was around because his disposition was intoxicating.

He was so eager to start preschool this year at Little Camp Head Start in Twin Buttes.

Now the little guy is fighting for his life.

Howling Wolf contracted West Nile Virus in September, a disease that can lead to brain or spinal cord infections.  He spent nearly a month in the hospital, in Bismarck and then Fargo. During that time, he flat-lined but was resuscitated. Other times, his young brain developed swelling, which had family members and doctors concerned and baffled.

“They didn’t know what it was,” said Howling Wolf’s mother, Jessica.

Doctors did a battery of tests. All came back negative. Another round netted the same results.

Doctors then tested for West Nile Virus. It was positive. He is one of 79 cases reported in North Dakota this year. According to the North Dakota Department of Health, Dunn County has one report of West Nile Virus. Officials would not release the name of the individual.

There have been nearly 44,000 cases of West Nile Virus disease reported in the United States since 1999. Of those, more than 20,000 people have had infections to the brain and spinal cord, according to the Center for Disease Control and Protection. More than 1,900 have died from the disease in the United States, the center said.

Howling Wolf is back in familiar surroundings now, having been released from the hospital days ago. He is surrounded by his family and friends as he undergoes therapy several times a week.

Jessica is hopeful her son will be back to his old self soon. But she realizes it’s going to be a long haul. The sight of her son suffering from the virus lingers and likely will never go away.

“We take it day by day,” she said. “We believe in Benny and his will.”

Doctors were fearful that he would not be able to talk, see, or  have motor skills as the result of the virus.

But the boy with the crooked smile smiled. He heard his mom talking to him, and he smiled and giggled.

It was a moment Jessica will never, ever forget.

“I told him, you’re in there. You’re in there, Baby, you just need to come out,” she said.

He’s fighting.

And others are fighting with him. The HOSA club at Killdeer High School is sponsoring an Indian Taco Meal and Silent auction on Sunday at the High Plains Cultural Center. The fund raiser will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It’s all about giving back and helping one another, said Cherie Roshau, the club’s sponsor.

“The kids really wanted to do this,” she said.

They also wanted to show support for Howling Wolf’s brother, Justice, who is a sophomore at the school.

The meal will feature authentic Indian Tacos with meat, lettuce, tomatoes. Drinks will also be available. The cost for the meal is $10 for adults and $5 for elementary age children and toddlers.

About 50 items have been donated for the auction. The bidding for the items will close at 2 p.m. Some of the items that have been donated include: tickets to a North Dakota State University football game, a Carson Wintz Philadelphia Eagles football jersey, safety gloves and clothing, a chocolate and wine basket, among other things.

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