Before she contracted West Nile Virus (WNV), certified veterinary technician Jennifer Holmes had an enduring passion for working with animals. She also loved hiking, biking, fishing, and visiting friends and family. Life post-WNV infection, however, is very different for Jennifer. No longer able to work in the clinic with animals, Jennifer has developed a new passion for health and helping people and now works as a researcher studying vector disease; she also works part-time as a wellness consultant. To relax, she still spends time with friends and family, takes short walks with her dog, and reads.
Jennifer is a member of The West Nile Support Group and West Nile Virus Survivors Foundation internet forum. Members of these communities find answers and support from others with WNV. Jennifer reports that her own life was filled with doubt and uncertainty when she initially became ill and that she was lucky to have the support of family and friends who helped pull her through the "tough times when [her] body stopped functioning." The life she leads these days is designed to "keep her body running," and she hopes that one day she will ride a bicycle again.
Jennifer became involved with the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) through her membership in The West Nile Support Group. She feels fortunate to have been nominated to represent the WNV community as a PRMRP consumer advocate reviewer. She says, "I was very excited for the opportunity to participate in the panel to further WNV research. I learned so much from the researchers and other panel participants. I felt that I was making a difference for the WNV community by bringing awareness for what this illness has done to my body and life." As someone who works in the scientific community, Jennifer recognizes that researchers spend long hours developing new diagnostic approaches and trying to understand the mechanisms of WNV infection and disease progression; however, to people with the disease, including Jennifer, "it feels like an eternity." Even so, she reflects, "There are so many wonderful people in this program working to help those of us with diseases ... I feel it is important to be involved as an advocate to help find answers."