Portage teen battles EEE virus with rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed

It was Aug. 16 when Kerri Dooley noticed her 14-year-old daughter wasn’t feeling well.

Physical Therapist Cara Hudson, left, and PT assistant Starr Sutton, center, work with Savanah DeHart in the Mary Free Bed Kids therapy gym. Dr. Douglas Henry and Savanah’s mother, Kerri Dooley, watch her progress.

Savanah DeHart had a severe headache and was acting dazed and lethargic. When her symptoms worsened overnight, Kerri took Savanah to the emergency room at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, not far from their Portage home. Doctors performed several tests and admitted Savanah as her condition continued to decline. By the following morning, she needed a ventilator to help her breathe.

Nine days later, Savanah’s mysterious illness was diagnosed as the mosquito-borne virus Eastern Equine Encephalitis. The rare, dangerous virus known as EEE causes inflammation of the brain. This year, EEE has infected 10 Michigan residents, including Savanah. Four of those infected have died.

After weeks in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Bronson, Savanah was stable enough to be transferred on Sept. 5 to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids for intensive rehabilitation with Mary Free Bed Kids. She is continuing her recovery under the care of Dr. Douglas Henry and a team of pediatric specialists, with the support of her mom and her dad, Bryan DeHart.

In the following video interviews, you’ll learn more about Savanah and her rehabilitation journey from Kerri and Dr. Henry.

Who is Savanah, and what happened to her?


Dr. Henry discusses EEE


Savanah’s recovery


Dr. Henry explains Savanah’s rehabilitation plan


‘Savanah Strong’ and thankfulness for support

To follow along with Savanah’s recovery, click here.

For information about EEE, including signs and symptoms, and how to reduce the chance of getting infected, visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website,



Brian TenBrock

I was at Mary Free Bed to Rehab from West Nile Virus. They do a great job and I would recommend them to anyone. I am now in their outpatient therapy program and being helped immensely.


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