Tate Haidle

Tate Haidle survived contracting Rocky Mountain spotted fever and West Nile virus. 

Tate Haidle knew something was wrong when, during a stop in Kansas in the summer of 2015, he was so tired he chose to stay back and sleep instead of heading to a festival to see one of his favorite bands perform. 

Back in Billings, after his health continued to decline, he went in for a battery of tests and doctors' visits and learned he'd contracted West Nile virus. 

Two days later, the doctor called back to tell him he also had Rocky Mountain spotted fever. He was 21 at the time. 

The chances of catching both diseases are one in several million, he said. Haidle's doctor found two reported cases where the patients — both teenagers — had contracted the diseases at the same time and had died. 

"For a while, it was really scary," Haidle said. 

These days, Haidle is almost back to full strength. He works part-time roasting coffee beans for Mazevo, the coffee shop that took over business from Off the Leaf, and earlier this month he competed in the volleyball tournament at Big Sky State Games. 

"That was my first competitive physical activity" since getting sick two years ago, he said. "To be able to do that was incredible."

The summer he got sick, Haidle had been traveling across the Midwest as part of Off the Leaf's mobile coffee bar tour, which set up shop at more than a dozen different music festivals in a dozen different states.  

On the mobile coffee tour, he was helping run Off The Leaf's coffee bar and then sleeping in a tent with the rest of the crew at night. 

"It rains a lot in the Midwest," he said with a smile. 

By the time they got to Wisconsin it was constantly wet and they were camping in groves of trees and bushes, often in puddles. And around the puddles were always dozens of mosquitoes. It was there he first started to notice his fatigue. 

At the their next stop, the rock festival in Kansas, he ended up in a hotel room so tired he could hardly keep himself awake. At first he thought it was mononucleosis, something he'd had a couple times before as a teen.

When he returned to Billings, he spent enormous amounts of time sleeping. Haidle's health had gotten so bad that he moved back home and spent 22 hours a day sleeping on the couch in the basement. 

His parents Candi and Daryl Haidle struggled to respond. 

"You're watching your kid deteriorate in front of you," Candi Haidle said. 

They both pushed their son a little to get up and at least try to put a little effort into life, into getting better. 

"There's this other component where you want to make sure they're not slacking," Daryl Haidle said. 

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There was a day Tate Haidle slept a straight 26 hours. He had dropped from 203 pounds to 167 pounds and seemed to buckle under the lightest physical activity. For Tate, the scariest was that he had trouble speaking. He would struggle to put sentences together and had difficulty communicating.

"He literally could not do anything," Daryl Haidle said. 

Candi Haidle said it was at this point that she and Daryl had a moment with Tate that deepened the contours of their relationship. 

"We realized we just needed to be there no matter what," she said. 

Tate Haidle went to visit his family doctor, Neal Sorensen, and eventually ended up in the offices of David Graham, an infectious disease specialist, where he was diagnosed with West Nile virus and then, two days later, Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Officials believe he was bit by a mosquito carrying West Nile and by a tick carrying spotted fever. 

As frightening as the double diagnosis was, it was a relief to finally have some answers.

"It was a little bit shocking," Candi Haidle said. "But it finally put a face on what was going on."

A few months later, the hives started. 

"Anytime it got above 70 degrees or I did something like unload the dishwasher I'd get hives," Tate Haidle said. 

After eight months, he decided to head out to eastern Montana to continue healing. His grandparents live in Fallon and he joined them there, helping around their place when he could and resting when he couldn't. 

It was there where he had an experience that turned the corner on his health. Haidle has believed in God since he was a young child and as he was recuperating at his grandparents' home, he realized in the back of his mind he was working through issues he had wrestled with since he was child. 

He had a moment of clarity and came to peace with what he'd been wrestling with. In a moment he felt his heart had been healed, which, Haidle believes, has allowed the rest of his body to heal. 

"I'm not supposed to be doing as well as I'm doing," he said. 

It's that faith in God, a belief that God was always in control of the situation, that allayed much of the fears of all three. They knew whatever was supposed to happen would happen, and they'd deal with it knowing that it was God's plan. 

By December 2016, a year and a half after getting sick, Haidle was clear of both diseases. He's still a little low on energy and he's hoping to be back to 100 percent by the end of the year. His immune system will take years to recover. When he gets a cold, he gets it worse than those around him, and it lasts longer than it does for others. 

Looking back on the last two years, Haidle remarked on how his illness brought together his family, which was already tight-knit. He's the oldest of four kids and, along with his parents, his siblings learned just how much they could rely on each other.

"We became a lot closer," Tate Haidle said. "It exposed the value of what really matters."

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