At 4 years old, Victoria “Pfeiffer” Whiteley is funny, precocious, incredibly charming, and also wise beyond her years. She loves dresses via flowers, Barbies, and also all points girly. She is also partially paralyzed, an outcome of transverse myelitis.

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When Pfeiffer was 8 months old, she occurred a high fever and also seemed to “flop over,” according to her babysitter. Both the pediatrician and also the medical professional at the hospital sassist the same thing—it was simply a virus that would settle on its own.

But the following day, her mother, Mandy, noticed that although Pfeiffer was relocating her elbows, her hands were still, and she wasn’t grasping things with her fingers like she had before. Mandy, reasoning her daughter should still be weak from the virus, ongoing to wait for the fever before to break.

“It was 5 days prior to Christmas,” Mandy recalls. “I didn’t think in a million years she’d be paralyzed.”

The next day, the fever was gone, yet Pfeiffer still wasn’t relocating. She had simply recently learned to rock ago and forth on her hands and knees, obtaining ready to crawl, however currently she lay still. Beginning to panic, Mandy pinched Pfeiffer’s legs to acquire an answer, however none came.

Later at the emergency room, after a battery of tests including MRIs, blood job-related, and a spinal tap, a neurologist told Mandy the news in the beforehand hours of the morning—Pfeiffer was paralyzed, a result of transverse myelitis, a rare, neurological disorder led to by inflammation of the spinal cord. The inflammation have the right to damages or damage myelin, the fatty insulation that covers nerve cell fibers, and also interrupt interaction in between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body.

Into the Unknown

“I had never before heard of transverse myelitis,” says Mandy. “At initially I was thinking, ‘All ideal, offer her the medicine, give her the operation.’ It didn’t really affix till later on that there is no cure.”

The medical professional started Pfeiffer on a course of steroids and also immunoglobulins, which are foreign antibodies injected in an attempt to make her antibodies assault the virus rather of her spine. Pfeiffer was put on an IV and also a breathing tube. At that allude, she can lift her arms very weakly, but not her hands, and she couldn’t move her legs at all. Her trunk was completely slumped over—she couldn’t sit up or press up on her arms.

Once she finiburned the course of steroids, the physicians recommfinished inpatient therapy. Since tright here was no operation that might help, her recovery depfinished mostly on just how well she responded to therapy. And the best area to go, medical professionals told her paleas, was the Internationwide Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI) at Kennedy Krieger.

“I didn’t understand also the severity of what we were taking care of till we acquired to Kennedy Krieger and walked right into the therapy room and also everyone was in wheelchairs,” Mandy claims. This was Pfeiffer’s brand-new area, and also it was, she admits, shocking at initially.

The hardest part for Mandy was not discovering what the future hosted. The prognosis for transverse myelitis is unpredictable—one third of those with transverse myelitis will certainly recover, one 3rd will certainly stay the same, and the other third will improve marginally, but have weakness and gait difficulties.

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“It’s difficult,” says Mandy. “You just desire them to tell you every little thing will be fine—you desire it so badly. But they won’t tell you your son is going to walk bereason they don’t recognize. No two situations are the exact same via transverse myelitis.”

Hope through Motion

But therapists did offer hope that recoincredibly from paralysis was feasible through Activity Based Restorative Therapies (ABRT), exercises that focus on prompting cells to “remember” just how to move while encouraging the development of brand-new nervous device cells. The goal for Pfeiffer was to gain back sensation, motion, and self-reliance.

She invested ten days on the inpatient unit and also then started outpatient therapy. “She was advancing pretty easily in the start,” claims Mandy. “It was interesting because every one of a sudden she obtained motion in her left hand also earlier and then the best.” She started pushing up, and shortly she was able to sit up, and also then pull to a standing position.

After Pfeiffer’s initial inpatient stay, she started coming to Kennedy Krieger 3 times a year for intense, two-week bouts of treatment making use of tools specially designed for youngsters. Pfeiffer’s physical therapist, Brooke Meyer, emerged a substantial exercise program that her therapists at home in New York could follow until her next visit.

Pfeiffer did treatment for 15 hrs a week via various therapy equipment—a suspension harness and also treadmill to facilitate walking, a functional electrical stimulation bike, an EMPI unit that gives electric stimulation to muscles, and also unique ankle foot orthosis braces that organize feet in alignment and strengthen ankles and also toes. Her hard occupational began paying off—she developed from walking with a walker to walking via forearm crutches, to a cane, then finally to walking without an assistive tool for brief ranges.

Little Miracles

Meyer recalls the initially time Pfeiffer walked without an assistive gadget. At initially, she would fall dvery own on objective because she was so used to the security of holding onto something while walking. But throughout one therapy session, Meyer lined up Barbies at two various stations, telling Pfeiffer to walk over to one and have a dance party through the Barbies. Without realizing it, Pfeiffer was walking. “Pfeiffer, do you realize you simply walked?” Meyer asked her. Pfeiffer was 3 years old.

Later, as she was obtaining prepared to leave, Pfeiffer dubbed out through a grin, “Brooke! Thank you for helping me walk this particular day.” These are the moments that melt Meyer’s heart and make her job so worthwhile.

“It has been so amazing and rewarding to watch Pfeiffer go from an infant who could not move on her very own to a child that is walking and also running with crutches,” says Meyer.

For Pfeiffer’s family members, every one of her “firsts” are reason for celebration. “Part of the silver lining for us is we get to witness bit miracles all the time—the first time she stood, the first time she crawled, the first time she walked without crutches,” defines Mandy. “Eincredibly bit milerock has been so inspirational and enlightening. I’d rather not have the challenge, but having actually had the challenge, the rewards are so a lot higher.”

Due to the fact that she is young, Pfeiffer’s nervous system is still developing, so she has an excellent possibility of recoincredibly, according to Meyer. “Pfeiffer is a figured out little bit girl who has actually made so much development, and she’ll proceed to make progress. We’ve viewed patients at the center acquire systematic recovery long after a spinal cord injury.”

In the meantime, Mandy will continue Pfeiffer’s treatment at Kennedy Krieger, and also trust them to guide her via her daughter’s care. “Kennedy Krieger and the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury are pioneers in transverse myelitis and spinal cord injuries,” claims Mandy. “They recognize what to expect as a spinal cord–injured kid grows and also progresses. Every time I go tright here I uncover out what’s coming down the road. We’re ahead of the game, quite than just waiting for something to occur and also reacting.”

It has actually been so remarkable and also rewarding to see Pfeiffer go from an infant who could not relocate on her own to a child that is walking and also running with crutches…Pfeiffer is a determined little girl who has made so much progress, and also she’ll proceed to make progression. We’ve watched patients at the facility gain meaningful recoincredibly lengthy after a spinal cord injury.

Brooke Meyer, physical therapist at the Institute’s Internationwide Center for Spinal Cord Injury