10-Year-Old Recovers From Mysterious Mosquito-Borne Illness

A Bedford family is looking for answers after a mysterious illness from a mosquito changed their son's life. He's on the mend, but they're warning other families that the bite of a mosquito can have graver consequences than you might think.

It's taken two years for 10-year-old Bradyn Stewart to bounce back from the weeks spent in the hospital, where he had to learn to walk once again.

The then-second grader could barely walk after he unexpectedly suffered seizure.

"14 hours after the seizure, he had been non-communicative and then he woke up and he said, 'Hi, Mom.' I'll never forget those words and he knew who I was and he knew his name," said his mother Kelli Stewart, who says she thought she had lost her son when he stopped breathing and collapsed at home.

Bradyn's brain had become inflamed, a condition called encephalitis, which can be caused by the bite of a West Nile virus-infected mosquito.

"We could hear them whispering about West Nile but they would never call it West Nile," said Stewart.

However, she says Bradyn didn't test positive for West Nile Virus. In fact, she says, doctors told her he had some kind of mosquito-borne illness so rare, it hasn't even been named.

"It was so mind blowing that a few days before, he was playing academy soccer at a high level and sprinting fields and now he can't walk five steps without falling over," said Stewart.

Bradyn says he doesn't remember much of what happened, but 18 months of physical therapy has helped him regain most of the function he lost.

"I am learning how to love this new me. The old me I liked because I was the fastest player on the team. I was really active and I played a lot of sports," said Bradyn.

Now, he says the "new him" loves to read because he isn't able to be as physically active as he used to.

The family says after countless medical tests, the illness is still a mystery to this day, however, one thing is certain.

"The boys have mosquito repellent in their backpack, in their baseball bags.  They have it in their soccer bags," said Stewart, who shares their story in the hopes it encourages others into taking precautions against mosquitoes.

"I feel like, unless people call it West Nile, nobody one really pays attention and my son almost died from a mosquito bite that wasn't West Nile," she said.

Dr. Natasha Wyndham Hanners at Children's Health didn't treat Bradyn but says the chance of developing a neuroinvasive disease, like encephalitis, from mosquito-borne viruses is less than one percent.

She also adds that about 20 percent of cases of mosquito-borne viruses manifest visible illnesses.

Neuroinvasive diseases are considered serious, requiring medical attention and there's a wide range of outcomes depending on the plasticity of a child's system. 

Outcomes range from complete recovery to death.

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