Laura is an energetic 10-year-old who loves dancing, singing, playing softball, and running races with her mom. Laura developed AFM at age 4, during the first outbreak in 2014. Her parents, Sara and Eric, say Laura is the most stubborn of their three kids, and they credit her tremendous progress to her extraordinary fight and drive.
One day in August of 2014, soon after she had gotten over a cold, Laura suddenly got a headache while playing with her family. The headache persisted for three days. Her breathing also accelerated, she became lethargic, and she developed a tremor. Her pediatrician initially wasn’t concerned. Then Laura developed a fever, partial facial paralysis, and double vision. Sara and Eric took Laura to the ER, but doctors believed her symptoms weren’t serious and sent her home. Soon after, Laura started having trouble holding her head up and moving her right arm. Her parents then took her to a different hospital.
At the hospital, doctors performed an MRI. They suspected meningitis and admitted Laura to the hospital. After 4 days, a second MRI showed lesions in her brain. By the next week, Laura couldn’t hold her head up and her speech had changed. As the paralysis spread through her body, Laura lost movement in her arms, legs, and trunk.
While doctors still didn’t have a diagnosis, they began physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Therapy helped Laura regain control over her mouth and lungs, so she could eat and breathe on her own. She was in a wheelchair but was able to walk with some support. After 28 days, she was able to leave the hospital. Soon after, Sara and Eric met with a neurologist who suspected Laura had AFM.
Over the next year, Laura continued physical therapy and occupational therapy three times a week. She also had acupuncture sessions, as well as aquatic therapy at home. Laura missed a year of preschool, but by the time she started kindergarten she was able to walk on her own.
Today Laura is doing well, though she still has weakness in her right arm. Her doctors tried nerve transfer surgery to restore full movement, but it was unsuccessful. However, this has not slowed her down at all. She is determined to get back to the activities she loves. After only a year of therapy, when Laura was still experiencing issues with her right leg, she could race a mile with her mom, alternating between running and walking. She has also continued dancing, singing, and playing piano. Laura has even taught herself to play guitar and softball with one arm!
“Trust your gut and be persistent with doctors. Keep fighting, keep pushing, and keep talking. Remember that medicine is advancing and things can get better. Take it a day at time.”