Published: 14:00, 15 October 2019
| Updated: 17:56, 15 October 2019
A distraught Maidstone mother has issued a desperate warning to parents after her youngest daughter was struck down by a mystery disease.
Few people have heard of Acute Flaccid Myelitis. It is rare but its incidence is increasing and the effects can be devastating. Victims can be left blind and paralysed. And it starts with nothing worse than a common cold.
Nicola Clark from Bearsted near Maidstone said: "My seven-year-old daughter Evie felt ill at Christmas. I didn't think too much of it. It seemed to be just a cold. A lot of her classmates had one and her older brother had a cough at the same time.
"The next day she was running a temperature and complaining that her back was hurting."
Mrs Clark took to sleeping in the same room as Evie to keep an eye on her and noticed that her daughter was flinching a lot in her sleep.
Within a few days, Evie couldn't lift her left arm.
Mrs Clark said: "Obviously something was seriously wrong. We took her to A&E at Maidstone.
"By now Evie was screaming in pain. We were asked to take her on to the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury."
Evie was there two days undergoing various tests but her condition was still undiagnosed.
"Evie couldn't sit or even hold her head up," said Mrs Clark, who also has three other children: Abbie 13, Emma 12 and Adam 10. "I've never been so scared in my life."
On New Year's Eve her daughter was transferred to the Evelina Children's Hospital next to Westminster Bridge in London, where specialists finally diagnosed Acute Flaccid Myelitis - an inflammation of the spinal chord.
Mrs Clark said: "I'd never even heard of it. You can imagine how I felt when they said Evie could go blind and spend the rest of her life in wheelchair."
Mrs Clark described the most desperate New Year's Eve ever, as she was forced to listen to the sound of the rest of London celebrating with the Thames firework display, while she nursed Evie, who was being violently ill, and worried if she would ever get her happy, cheerful, dancing child back.
Fortunately, Evie has made a strong recovery. She spent five weeks in hospital being given intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) treatment to replace her body's anti-bodies with those from donors.
Since then she has undergone extensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy to help her regain the use of her limbs.
Her left arm is still not fully recovered and Evie will soon have an operation to bypass a damaged nerve to help her regain full use, but she is now back at school at Thurnham Primary.
Now that Evie is onthe way to recovery, Mrs Clark is keen to warn others.
She said: "I feel guilty that I knew nothing about this. Parents need to be on the alert."
Symptoms can include slurred speech and drooping eyes, but Mrs Clark said: "Doctors at the Evelina told me the clue was that Evie complained of back pain. That's apparently rare in young children."
There were 40 cases of Acute Flaccid Myelitis in the UK last year. There is currently no immunisation available against the disease, which has been described as "the new polio."
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More by this authorAlan Smith