Lee Flame has life changed by West Nile
by JONATHAN PERELMAN Lee Clarion
Mar 30, 2014 | 652 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lee Flame

LEE UNIVERSITY sophomore Evan Forhetz, left, bounced back from contracting the West Nile Virus last year to resume his basketball career with the Flames. Photo by NEENU
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Evan Forhetz, a redshirt sophomore for the Flames’ basketball team, caught the West Nile Virus last year, and it changed his college career in a way he never thought possible.

Forhetz and a couple of his friends went to Chickamauga Lake and a mosquito bit him on the ankle.

The mosquito bite not only gave Forhetz West Nile Virus but multiple other life threatening side effects. The bite caused encephalitis, pancreatitis, shingles, vertigo and tinnitus.

It left permanent hearing damage in his right ear and within weeks of contracting the disease, Forhetz lost 40 lbs. The disease that he contracted nearly took his life, but he slowly started to show signs of improvement.

“I couldn’t do anything. [Men’s Head Basketball] Coach [Tommy] Brown eventually told me to go home, go to class and just sleep. I was like a bear hibernating. I slept 18 hours a day. I dropped to 120 lbs. I was white as paper,” Forhetz said about the side effects the disease had on his everyday life.

Forhetz, a health science major, said he had a heavy workload because of his major, but he didn’t use that as an excuse. Despite this illness completely draining him of his energy, he continued to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Forhetz said that his dream is to work with kids because they seem to have no worries.

“To go through that kind of sickness and that kind of adversity and maintain a 4.0; credit to him and how he has overcome it,” Brown said of Forhetz.

Although he went through something most people will never experience, he learned to see the positives through everything and built up toughness through his adversity.

Forhetz redshirted his freshman year due to the virus and the negative side effects it had on his season.

“Redshirting was the best thing that ever happened to me. I get five years of college instead of four years. Looking back on it, it was good for me. I didn’t enjoy being sick, but it was good in the long run to redshirt,” Forhetz said.

The West Nile Virus helped him to not take life for granted. He said it helped him love playing the game of basketball even more than he used to because he knew he might never get to play again.

“I think Evan came to appreciate the opportunity he does have, and knowing Evan, he doesn’t take it for granted. He was given a second opportunity at his true love, and he wants to work even harder to be successful at it,” Athletic Director Larry Carpenter said.

Going through this disease was extremely tough for him. While many people would look at an experience like that as a low point in their life, he looked at this and saw life differently.

“I think it’s made him see life differently and put things in perspective. He has certainly grown from it and as far as a player’s concern, he’s learned to appreciate the game even more,” Brown said.

As soon as Forhetz was healthy and able to get back on the court he gained his weight back. He used his toughness to put in the work to earn a spot on the floor during varsity games. Despite being one of the smallest members on the team, listed at 5-foot-10-inches, 165 pounds, his toughness and IQ earned him a consistent spot in the Flames lineup.

Starting three of the 20 games he played in, Forhetz helps the team in different ways. This past season he scored 30 points, grabbed 29 rebounds and dished out 19 assists. Evan’s IQ carries from the classroom onto the court where he said players look to him in certain situation because he has a high basketball IQ.

“If I’m not getting as many minutes as I want on the court, I can impact the team by helping players out on where to be, what to do and working hard on and off the court. I could score zero points or 500. I don’t care. All I care about is if we get the win or not,” Forhetz said.

The virus that he contracted had terrible effects. He still has trouble hearing in his right ear and will continuously hear ringing in that ear throughout the rest of his life.

“To watch him have to go through that, be that sick and have his balance be so lost was sad, and it was scary,” Brown said.

Forhetz will always remember the experience because of the constant ringing. He will always remember what he overcame.

“It was not a good experience, but it made me tougher. I had to fight because any one of those things could kill you. But I was able to overcome it and bounce back,” Forhetz said.