Doctors investigate sudden paralysis in kids

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Doctors investigate sudden paralysis in kids. Registered Nurse Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 11 p.m. on July 14, 2017. (WPVI)

Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are investigating what's causing sudden paralysis in some kids.

Luke Deidloff is a happy and determined little boy. At 20-months-old, he now depends on his stander to get around, because he can no longer move his legs.

But these home videos show him just months before his first birthday taking his first steps.

His mother, Dana says last September, Luke had what appeared to be a cold but quickly got worse.

"He woke up Saturday morning completely lethargic, really sick. I went to stand him up and his legs just buckled beneath him," she said.

At the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Luke was diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a condition that affects the spinal cord and causes sudden weakness in the arms or legs.

Action News reported on the condition in 2014 when the CDC started seeing a spike in cases nationwide - 120 that year.

In 2015, there were just 21. But then in 2016, another spike - 144 cases. Mostly seen mid to late summer.

Neurologist Doctor Sarah Hopkins says at first there seemed to be a link to a respiratory virus called Enterovirus D-68.

Luke tested positive for it, and so did 7 of the 8 cases CHOP saw in 2016. But nationally there wasn't a clear connection to Enterovirus D-68.

"We suspect that it is a viral cause, but we haven't been able to pinpoint for sure whether all these patients have had the same virus or whether they are different viruses," Dr. Hopkins said.

She and other researchers continue to look for clues, the best treatments, and why some kids may be more susceptible.

It is an extremely rare condition. Parents shouldn't panic but should be aware.

"Most kids are going to get a cold and that's all that's going to happen or a stomach virus and that's all," Dr. Hopkins said.

But she says if your child is sick with a fever and starts having trouble moving an arm, leg or their head, get them to the emergency room.

Dana says what happened to Luke is devastating, but his spirit makes the struggle bearable.

She added, "Through physical therapy, occupational therapy and determination, he's going to go places even if he never walks again, but I believe that he will, I do."

Again, this is a rare condition. Doctor Hopkins says if it happens, it's typically in kids younger than five. And there's a possibility it could weaken respiratory muscles and affect breathing.

Parents and doctors should be on the look-out just in case we see another spike this summer.
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