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Hawaiian paradise. Not so fast. American man bounces back from rare disease - Rat Lungworm

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (

Eric Reinert, from Minnesota and now 23 years of age, can't believe how his life was one short year ago. Diagnosed with Rat Lungworm Disease, a disease so rare some think he may have been the only patient on mainland America to ever contract the disease. Everything sent him into unimaginable pain. Reinert is now learning to walk, talk and care for himself again.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A former state wrestling champion from Watertown-Mayer High School, every nerve in Reinert's body was in pain a year ago.

Now working as an assistant with the University of Minnesota softball team, he's ecstatic to be here instead of his hospital bed. "It's just a surreal thing to imagine that that was me a year ago," Reinert says.

Weighing 50 pounds less, Reinert was as helpless as a baby. He had to learn to walk all over again. It was baby steps for reading books and computer screens, too.

Reinert's ordeal began in November of 2011. "The pain was kind of unimaginable," he says.

Working on a farm in Hawaii's Puna District, Reinert was learning to become an organic farmer. He got sick two weeks into the program. His nervous system became hypersensitive to the point where the tiniest vibrations sparked discomfort.

He could feel the pain whenever his roommates would walk by while Reinert was lying on his bed. "I could feel them walking, shooting vibrations up through me. I couldn't feel comfortable in any position," Reinert says.

A doctor diagnosed him with Rat Lungworm Disease, an ailment that can only be found in that part of Hawaii, originating from a microscopic parasite in a rat.

Something as simple as eating an unwashed strawberry may have been how Reinert contracted the disease.

"The Honolulu newspaper interviewed me and said I might be the only person on the mainland of America that has ever gotten it," he says.

Today, in spite of occasional pain and discomfort in his right leg, Reinert is nearing a full recovery.

He's back in Minnesota finishing school at the University of Minnesota, where he's now pitching batting practice to the softball team.

Reinert credits his family, friends and God for where he is today.

"That's what I remember when we last talked was I'm going to get better. And that attitude and that drive to want to get better is what helped me get better," he says.

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