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Marcus Struble, right, was diagnosed with post infectious encephalitis and meningitis earlier this year. The seventh-grader lost 65 percent of the strength on the right side of his body, along with much of his memory. He's pictured above with his parents, Mark and Katie Struble. A benefit is being planned in Marcus' honor on March 10 at Ready Randy's. Photo by P.H.oto.

New Richmond teenager works to overcome brain injury

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Like most teenagers his age, seventh-grader Marcus Struble started going through mood swings and personality changes in mid- to late-December.

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The problem, said Katie Struble, is that Marcus continued to spiral downhill.

"He would get blinding headaches," she said. "The doctors thought it was migraines, but medicine wouldn't help."

It wasn't until early January, when Marcus went to a friend's birthday party, that the family realized something was really wrong.

"Even he knew something wasn't right," she said.

After spending the night at the friend's house, Marcus told his parents that he had fallen several times throughout the night. When Katie arrived to pick him up from the house, her son's speech was slurred. She immediately brought him to see a doctor.

"They did a couple tests and told us we needed to get him to Children's (Hospital) because he needed higher care than they could provide," she said. "My stomach just dropped. That was one of the scariest things."

Emergency room doctors were waiting for the Strubles when they arrived, she said.

"Even though the emergency room was full, we were brought in right away," she said. "They did a spinal tap, EEG, CT scan, MRI..."

"And all the while we didn't know what was wrong with him," said Mark Stuble, Marcus' father.

The Strubles said they realized the severity of their son's condition when doctors told them to settle in because they would be there several days.

"They didn't know what was wrong," Katie said. "They only knew that something was wrong in Marcus' brain."

Five days after being admitted to the hospital, the Strubles were told Marcus had post infectious encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that caused Marcus to lose about 65 percent of the strength in the right side of his body and much of his memory.

Because of the results of Marcus' spinal tap, doctors told the Strubles that it's likely Marcus had meningitis before developing post infectious encephalitis.

"They're not sure what caused him to get meningitis," Mark said.

Marcus is now on the road to recovery. He attends some sort of therapy, whether it's physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy, six to eight times per week in Stillwater, Minn. The time commitment has forced Katie to put her job as a special services paraeducator at Paperjack Elementary on hold.

"We're kind of stuck in this limbo while we wait to see how long it will take for him to recover," Katie said.

The community as a whole has been very supportive, the Strubles said.

Katie said the hardest part has been explaining Marcus' injury to people, because there is no physical evidence that he's been injured.

"His outside looks great, but his inside is all messed up," Mark said.

"People who aren't with him all the time don't see what he's missing," Katie said.

Katie said it's difficult when her teenage son has to ask whether the letter M comes before the letter N in the alphabet.

The Strubles said their friends and family have been a great help for their family.

"The community as a whole has been amazing," Mark said. "Everyone wants to help and rally around us."

A benefit is being planned to help the Struble family with bills associated with Marcus' illness. While insurance covers much of Marcus' therapy, it doesn't cover other items, like therapy balls, putties and Katie's lost wages. The benefit, which will happen Sunday, March 10, from 1-4 p.m. at Ready Randy's Banquet Center in New Richmond, will feature a spaghetti dinner, silent auction, live music by The Dweebs and various activities for kids.

"People should come to my benefit because it's going to be fun," Marcus said.

A fund has also been set up for Marcus at WESTconsin Credit Union, 121 Meridian Drive in New Richmond.

Donations for the benefit are still being accepted, Katie said. Those with physical items for the silent auction are encouraged to drop them at Paradigm Services, 250 Paperjack Drive, Suite 4 in New Richmond.

"I really want to thank Kim (Anderson) at Kim's Kafé for her cinnamon rolls (Marcus' favorite) and all the people who donated to the benefit," Marcus said.

It's unknown how long it will take Marcus to fully recover; however, Katie said the family hopes to have a better idea in a few month months.

"Where he is then will give us a good idea," she said.

For more information about Marcus, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/marcusstruble.

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