13-year-old Isabel Kirby has been diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis

By Ashley Boucher
January 11, 2020 12:41 AM
Isabel Kirby

When 13-year-old Isabel Kirby was opening her presents on Christmas morning last month, she had no idea that the very next day she’d be unable to walk.

The teenager from Chippewa Lake, Ohio, complained of pain in her legs just a few hours after excitedly opening a new Smart TV from her parents, News 5 Cleveland reported Thursday.

Isabel and her parents thought that she just had a muscle cramp from dehydration or growing pains, and gave her daughter Ibuprofen and rubbed her muscles.

“I just thought, ‘Oh gosh, it’s just growing pains or a Charley horse,'” Noel, Isabel’s mom, told the outlet.

“My legs went in this big like pain and then went numb like that,” Isabel explained.

But by the next morning, Isabel couldn’t move her legs at all. 

Isabel Kirby

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Her parents immediately took her to the hospital, where Isabel’s sudden paralysis was diagnosed as acute flaccid myelitis, according to News 5. The condition is extremely rare, and doctors are still trying to find out its cause.

“She has been undergoing treatment and has many weeks or possibly months of rehab in front of her,” a GoFund Me set up for her medical expenses said, pointing out that she has a twin sister and an older brother at home as well.

“At this point, the family will, at minimum, have to pay 2019 and 2020 deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, plus daily travel to and from the hospital,” the GoFund Me said. “They are overwhelmed by the sudden impact on their family, and grateful for any support we can give.”

Akron Children’s Hospital Dr. Eric Robinette said that the chances of contracting the illness are “a one-in-a-million type of likelihood,” News 5 reported.

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Noel called their daughter’s diagnosis “a bad dream,” but Isabel told the outlet that she remains hopeful.

“It’s like your own story, so you could like walk again,” Isabel, who plays catcher for her softball team, said. “That’s what we’re hoping for and stuff like that. You can walk again, or you could still be in a chair the rest of your life, but hopefully through rehab, I can try to get to walk again and gain my movement back.”

The CDC has seen an increase in acute flaccid myelitis every two years since 2014. And while it has been described as a “polio-like,” the CDC says that “all the stool specimens from AFM patients that we received tested negative for poliovirus.”

For now, Isabel said that the diagnosis is “a lot” to handle, “but I just try to go with the flow, just try to push through.”