By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer
RYLAND HEIGHTS - A Kenton County couple shook their son's shoulders last week as he lay dying - mute and unresponsive - of complications from the mosquito-born West Nile virus.
Jeffrey K. Abel, 40, a hearty, jovial construction worker, died Thursday at Deaconess Hospital in Cincinnati without answering their pleas.
Mr. Abel was the fourth person to die from West Nile this year in Greater Cincinnati. While health officials have warned that the elderly could be particularly vulnerable to West Nile virus, Mr. Abel's immune system was weakened by a two-year battle with cirrhosis.
The Oakley man had been unresponsive since Sept. 27, when his flulike symptoms, which included headache and 106-degree fever, escalated.
Mr. Abel's friends have said that he was sitting on a porch when his eyes started jumping erratically and he fell from his chair.
Mr. Abel was rushed to the hospital and placed on life-support machines. "Anybody who thinks that they have the flu, get to your doctor immediately. Don't procrastinate because (the West Nile virus) is out there," said his mother, Debbie Crouch.
His parents believe he contracted the virus because of his lifelong love for sleeping outdoors - whether it was on an air mattress tossed on the grass or a chaise longue placed on a friend's porch.
"It sounds crazy, but that's the way the boy was," Mrs. Crouch said with a laugh. "He was my crazy kid. He was high on life."
Mr. Abel, who once aspired to become a professional wrestler, loved sports and avidly followed University of Cincinnati and University of Kentucky teams.
He often joked that "bad luck" was the only luck that he'd ever possess, which perhaps explains why he also followed the hapless Cincinnati Bengals.
While holding yet another long vigil at her son's side, Mrs. Crouch shook her son's shoulders and tried to shock him alert with a lie.
"I said, `Jeff, you gotta wake up and hear this. The Bengals have won,'" she said, chuckling again.
Mr. Abel's survivors include: his companion, Linda Cravens of Oakley; his mother and stepfather, Debbie and Jim Crouch of Ryland Heights; father and stepmother, Harry and Barbara Abel of Williamsburg; four sisters, Trina Mardis of Morningview; Tina Crouch of Covington, Emily Madonis of West Chester and Heather Abel of Mount Airy; and four brothers, Richard Abel of Mount Airy, Mark Abel of Bethel, Shawn Abel of Elmwood Place, and Brian Abel of Williamsburg, Ohio.
Visitation will be 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, with a service at 1 p.m. at Chambers & Grubbs Funeral Home, 11382 Madison Pike, Independence. Burial will be in Carter's Chapel Cemetery.
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