Sep 12, 2019Grower hospitalized with rare mosquito-borne virus
A fundraising effort has been launched for Bill Teichman, a prominent Michigan tree fruit grower who’s in the hospital after contracting a rare disease.
Teichman was admitted to the hospital in mid-August after suffering from what’s now known to be Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a rare mosquito-borne virus that causes brain swelling, according to the page on gofundme.com. His symptoms became worse after admittance, and he was transferred to a neurology intensive care unit in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s now being treated in a long-term acute care hospital.
“There are small signs of improvement that give us hope but we know this is a very long road ahead of us,” according to the page.
Bill’s wife, Monica – a past president of the Michigan State Horticultural Society – confirmed that information on the page was accurate and the fundraising effort is legitimate.
“Time is the only thing that can heal Bill,” she said. “Prayers are needed and appreciated.”
It’s a rare disease, but not unheard of in west Michigan, where several cases have been documented. The virus causing EEE is transmitted to humans by a mosquito bite.
“Human EEEV cases occur relatively infrequently, largely because the primary transmission cycle takes place in and around swampy areas where human populations tend to be limited,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 4-5% of the people who contract the virus develop the disease.
The Teichman family has farmed apples, peaches, pears, cherries, apricots, nectarines, plums and raspberries west of St. Joseph/Benton Harbor since the 1920s. Bill and Monica Teichman married in 1991. In 2018, Monica served as the first female president of the nearly 150-year-old Michigan State Horticultural Society.
In 2017, the family-owned Skyline Orchards and Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm encompassed about 450 acres and 200 apple varieties including the elusive and strange-looking Knobbed Russet.
Bill’s father, the late Herb Teichman, put the farm and village of Eau Claire on the map by organizing the International Cherry Pit-Spitting Championship, an event where world records have been set for years.
Bill is a third-generation, lifelong fruit grower and “the heartbeat of Tree-Mendous Fruit Farm,” according to the fundraising page.
“He and his wife, Monica, have dedicated their heart and soul to continuing the tradition of bringing families from far and wide to come to enjoy a day of U-pick, waffle boats, picnics, and the annual International Cherry Pit Spit,” according to the fundraising page. “Bill is one of the most hardworking, genuine, intelligent, quirky, kind, and strong individuals around. He is a loving, husband, father, and friend, and inspires his children every day.”
Above, Bill Teichman and his wife Monica, in 2017 with a favorite apple tree at Tree-Mendous Fruit Farm near Eau Claire, Michigan. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman