Acute flaccid myelitis: Batavia toddler treated for rare polio-like illness in Chicago

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018
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A rare polio-like illness is impacting children across the country, including two being treated at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Julia Payne seems like most spunky toddlers.

"Your typical 2-year-old, before this she was running around telling knock-knock jokes and getting into trouble," said her mom, Katie Payne.

Katy Payne can say her daughter is one in a million - what's currently setting her apart is a rare, scary, polio-like disease.

For nearly a month, the Paynes have watched daughter Julia battle Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).

"It's really just a common cold virus and it attacked Julia's body and spinal cord a certain way, and it seems to be happening to other kids too," said Julia's dad, Josh Payne.

There have been at least six cases reported in Minnesota in the last few weeks. Julia is one of two children being treated for AFM in Chicago. An 8-year-old from Indiana is also being treated here, and her father told ABC7 Eyewitness News that she has some paralysis and a partially-collapsed lung.

The mother remembers when things got weird.

"She went in for an X-ray and she couldn't hold her head up by herself anymore, which was very strange," she said.

Dr. Tina Tan, an attending physician at Lurie Children's Hospital who specializes in infectious diseases and has attended to Julia, said the best advice for parents is to be vigilant and take note of concerning symptoms.

"So if their child gets an enteroviral infection, they need to look for symptoms such as sudden onset of arm and leg weakness, difficulty swallowing. Sometimes slurring of the speech," she said.

The Paynes got emotional reflecting on how many people have stepped up to help and said though the disease is quite rare, they hope sharing their story can help others.

"Statistically it's a small amount but I mean, it happened to us. So we just want to help any other family out there that could be affected," Katie said. "We're just so grateful for all the support we've received from our friends and family, and our faith has really gotten us through."

Julia will begin rehab Tuesday and doctors said she is progressing well, but that her battle is far from over.