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Owner of Mustang Bar & Grill recovering after life-threatening illness


May 23, 2010 at 12:23 a.m.

Zane Steininger stands with some of the donations that came in on Sunday to help him pay for his medical expenses. Steininger said he is touched by the help and support he received from friends and family as he recovered from a bout with three separate bugs in the tetanus family.

A look at the tall, trim Victorian in the button-down shirt wouldn't indicate anything unusual.

He looked like any other man talking with friends.

But Zane Steininger recently underwent - and won - what was literally a fight for his life.

In early March, the 38-year-old fell ill with what appeared to be a stomach virus, but that illness evolved, said T.J. Girt, Steininger's brother. His upper body and face swelled to the point that breathing was restricted and other medical hurdles joined the mix.

When Victoria doctors couldn't determine what was causing it, he went to Galveston's University of Texas Medical Branch.

"He was in the hospital for a long time," Girt said. "They had to call in infectious disease specialists. He had 24-hour care."

Eventually, doctors determined he'd contracted three different bugs in the tetanus family.

It's rare to fall sick to even one such bug, and three was basically unheard of, Steininger said. Although they know it started with a cut on his head, no one could determine exactly how he contracted the strains.

"Basically, these bugs are everywhere, but I just happened to catch them," he said.

Odds were against him - the illness carries a 90 percent mortality rate - but doctors battled it with antibiotics, said Adriane Orta, Steininger's girlfriend. His family, friends and faith also helped.

After about six weeks in the hospital, he finally went home.

Coming out of that battle victorious is a good thing, but it left Steininger, co-owner of the Mustang Bar & Grill, with hefty medical bills.

At this point, he owes about $150,000. His fight will be included as a case study in medical journals, which lowered his bill from the at least $450,000 he would have been faced with.

He has other people rooting on his team, too.

A small committee has joined forces to gather support and financial assistance for Steininger. On Sunday, these friends perched outside Cimarron Express, selling T-shirts and barbecue plate tickets and taking donations for their friend.

"We wanted to help," said Donna Walentovic, who manned the table outside the convenience store.

Sunday's event brought in about $75 in donations, plus T-shirt and raffle ticket sales, Girt said.

Future events, such as the barbecue plate sale, are coming down the pipeline.

There's no set amount Steininger and his group hope to bring in.

"As much as possible," he said with a shrug.

If donations exceed the costs, plans are to "pay it forward" and donate the extra to a charity of Steininger's choice, Girt said.

The illness has been something of a mixed blessing to Steininger, who said he experienced more support from friends and family than he ever expected.

"It is indescribable to be reminded of how many friends I have," he said, smiling. "It's very sobering."

Today, what began as a dire situation looks to have a happy ending.

A small bald patch on the back of Steininger's head and a tracheotomy scar on his throat are the only indicators anything went wrong. And, while he's still working to gain back some weight, he said, he's feeling pretty good.

And that's good news for Girt, who admitted the illness was scary for everybody.

"He's my big brother and, to me, he's always been invincible to a certain point," he said. "But he will make a full recovery. It's awesome."



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