Northern Kentucky boy treated for suspected AFM at Children's Hospital

Alex Voland and Children's Hospital doctors discuss Elijah's suspected case of AFM (Alex Voland)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital have been treating a four-year-old Northern Kentucky boy they believe has acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

Alex Voland took Elijah to the hospital on Oct. 12 after cold symptoms got worse and he started suffering the weakness in limbs that has been associated with AFM. His pediatrician originally diagnosed Elijah with pneumonia but Voland said after a few days she knew something else was wrong and she took him to the hospital.

AFM affects the person's nervous system, specifically the spinal cord. It causes weakness in the limbs. It's often described as "polio-like". But Dr. Joshua Schaffzin says comparing AFM to polio is like comparing apples to oranges.

After spending the last month at the hospital, Voland and Elijah's doctors say his legs are getting stronger. He goes though occupational and physical therapy every day but he still has a long way to go.

Dr. Schaffzin says it's not known how children get AFM. They don't even know if it's a virus. He says if it is a virus, the question is if it's easily spread but only a few children development the symptoms or whether it's very hard to pass to others. There aren't any known cases where AFM was spread from a child with symptoms to family members or anyone else in contact with them.

Dr. Schaffzin wants parents to know that they should follow their instincts if something seems wrong.

While the road to recovery will be long Voland says she knows Elijah will be ok because, "I"m his mom". But she says seeing her previously energetic son struggle with recovery is very hard. "To suddenly see him in a wheelchair, unsure of himself, if he's going to be able to do something in physical therapy, him trying a new challenge like getting up on a table or stretching, it's heartbreaking as a parent."

Dr. Marissa Vawter-Lee says some kids recover 99.9% but others see very little recovery. She says most of the recoveries are somewhere in between.

Elijah's case has not been confirmed by the CDC but his doctors say he fits the criteria. Dr. Schaffzin says Children's has reported at least one other case to public health officials.

Voland is a student at NKU. She says the outpouring of support from the university community, her church and everyone who knows what she and her family have been going through has been amazing.

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