North Texas

Family of Fort Worth Survivor of Rare Polio-Like Disease, AFM, Speaks Out

Multiple cases of a rare polio-like disease are cropping up across North Texas. Children's Hospital in Dallas has seen six cases so far this year, while Cook Children's in Fort Worth has three confirmed cases, and the CDC is investigating a fourth.

It's a neurological disease called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM, and while it's very rare, North Texas and the country have seen outbreaks before, back in 2016 and in 2014 before that.

Doctors think it's linked to a virus but they don't know why one kid catches it over another, or why some can have permanent paralysis while others bounce back, like one brave little girl from Fort Worth.

For five-year-old Elizabeth Storrie, playing the clapping game “Miss Mary Mack” with her pediatrician is a chance to be a kid again, while for Dr. Diane Arnaout, it's a glimpse of how far she's come.

"If I pull your arm up, does that hurt?" Dr. Arnaout asked. Elizabeth said no.

Back in June, Elizabeth couldn't lift her right arm at all. It came on suddenly, after what seemed like symptoms of a common cold, a cough and low fever. Within days, she was hospitalized with severe head and neck pain, unable to turn her head.

"She had to lie on the floorboard of our car, it was too painful for her to sit up," said Elizabeth’s mother Heather Storrie.

After an MRI, doctors diagnosed Elizabeth with AFM.

"I had some coffee, and I think I spit it out I was so shocked,” Dr. Arnaout said. “That was a diagnosis I'd only seen on my medical journal covers."

Mrs. Storrie added, "He said that it was in her cervical spine and that she likely will not breathe on her own again, she likely will not walk again."

There is no treatment so they could only watch and wait for her to improve and slowly she did, the family celebrating every step.

"The first time she sat up herself, the first steps that she took by herself," said Mrs. Storrie.

Elizabeth is still making strides today, hoping to regain full use of her arm and like the butterflies she loves so much...

"First they're a caterpillar and then they turn into one," Elizabeth said.

Re-emerge stronger than ever.

"We feel very blessed with her outcome," said her dad Carl Storrie. "Being an illustration of the power of prayer was very encouraging."

Dr. Arnaout says the normal things like hand washing are your child's best defense to avoid infection. But she stressed not to try and put your kids in a bubble. Both she and Elizabeth's parents are reminding us just how rare this is, even Elizabeth's two younger siblings didn't catch it.

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