Health Plus: Legionnaires' disease affects local woman - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Health Plus: Legionnaires' disease affects local woman


An Eastern Iowa woman survived a freak virus and multiple strokes despite the odds against her, proving that faith, hope and love can overcome obstacles.

At 39, Shawn Barfels has a lot to live for.

The married mother of three from Waterloo went to the hospital this summer with what she thought was a harmless virus.

It turned out to be the rare and some times fatal form of pneumonia -- Legionnaires' disease. Legionnaires' disease is spread through water that contains the bacteria.

"And then things weren't getting any better that week she was there in the ICU, and we almost lost her on Tuesday," Barfels' husband Wayne Barfels said.

Pumping antibiotics through a PICC line in her arm caused a blood clot that led to multiple strokes and an inability for Shawn to talk or take care of herself.

"She had a larger one on her side on her brain stem, and they actually had to remove part of her skull to relieve the swelling," her husband said.

That's where Covenant Rehabilitation and Barfels' incredible will came in.

Covenant Occupational Therapist Jill Harlan calls Barfels "a phenomenal success, and just such an inspiration for all of us as a team."

Occupational therapists channeled her determined spirit into amazing results.

"Shawn at that time was not able to move her arms or her legs," Harlan said. "She was not able to communicate. She had a trach in."

"You look at her: She has that beautiful smile, she had the will to work and she would try everything that we asked her to do and she was so great at it," Physical Therapy Assistant Edna Williams said.

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