Salem girl being treated at OHSU for acute flaccid myelitis

Breea Shelton (Family photo)

A 10-year-old Salem girl is at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with symptoms that doctors believe is acute flaccid myelitis.

Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, has been in the news recently with several cases reported in Seattle. The disease can mimic polio and doctors are still trying to figure out how to treat it.

Max Marshall says his grand niece, Breea Shelton, came down with what appeared to be a basic cold last week. The girl is autistic and mostly non-verbal, so it can be hard to tell how she’s feeling. But by Friday, Breea’s mother knew something was way off.

“She went to the emergency room and said something’s wrong with my daughter,” Marshall said. “Something’s extremely wrong with my daughter. She’s all limp on one side, she’s sagging her neck.”

With paralysis up and down the left side of Breea’s body, the Salem family rushed her to Doernbecher in Portland where doctors said most of the signs pointed to acute flaccid myelitis.

Common viruses can often cause nerve damage, but child neurologist Dr. Colin Roberts says AFM mostly attacks the spinal cord.

“This is a different condition in that the part of the nervous system that seems to be under attack is not the typical thing we see with these syndromes,” Dr. Roberts said.

Roberts has seen two, possibly three recent cases of AFM in children at Doernbecher. Some recover just fine, while others have lasting neurological damage. Doctors have not pinpointed what causes it and with new symptom characteristics, treatment is experimental.

“The difficulty here with AFM is we don’t actually know what the best treatment is just yet. So we are trying a number of things that we’re hopeful could be effective.”

Breea’s long term prognosis is still a mystery. But with the challenges she already faces, her family is left wondering why this happened.

“It’s heart wrenching,” Marshall said, fighting back tears. “And they say this only happens to a super small percentage of people. You know, then why her?”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Breea’s family with expenses while she’s being treated in Portland. If you would like to help, click on the link:

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