There probably aren’t too many people in Watertown who aren’t familiar with the story of Eric Reinert’s recent battle with rat lungworm disease, but now, the rest of America will hear his story as well
Reinert’s tale will be told on the season premiere of Animal Planet’s show, Monsters Inside Me. The hour-long episode will air at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30.
The 10-episode season features the stories of people who have suffered from rare parasitic or viral attacks. The show focuses both on the people’s stories, as well as the science behind how the parasite or virus attacks the body and weakens the immune system. A press release announcing the upcoming season and its creepy stories of rare parasites excitedly urges viewer discretion, and prepares viewers to be “very scared,” hinting that any of these parasites could be crawling inside you right now.
Reinert, a 23-year-old Watertown-Mayer High School graduate, contracted rat lungworm disease during a work-exchange trip to Hawaii in the fall of 2011. Just a few weeks into what was supposed to be a four-month trip, Reinert fell gravely ill. His illness, which baffled doctors for weeks, caused such severe hypersensitivity that he felt severe pain from something as minor as dropping a piece of fruit on his lap or feeling somebody walk across the floor.
It wasn’t until several weeks after he fell ill that doctors were able to use a spinal tap to diagnose him with eosinophillic meningitis, more commonly known as rat lungworm disease. The disease, which can cause permanent brain and nerve damage, left him in a hospital room at Hilo Medical Center for seven weeks, where he suffered extreme weight and muscle loss.
His extensive recovery and physical therapy process continued back in Minnesota, where the former state champion wrestler basically had to relearn to walk all over again.
Animal Planet producers and camera crews filmed the episode in and around Watertown in early April, using a medical center at Crown College to recreate Reinert’s stay in the hospital. Reinert said both he and his mother, Linda, were interviewed for several hours apiece as they detailed the story from start to finish.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]