Toddler paralyzed by mysterious polio-like illness

Toddler paralyzed by mysterious polio-like illness (Photo Credit: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) –At Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, 18-month-old Hunter Tindal and his parents are preparing for a move to rehab after more than a month in the ICU.

Hunter was admitted after being rushed to the ER with paralysis. His mother, Jenna, says some cold-like symptoms quickly evolved into something much scarier.
“He fell off the couch and when he fell he fell flat on his face, he couldn’t get up,” said Jenna Shumpert.
Despite testing, treating and monitoring for a whole slew of probable reasons, Hunter’s left side was suddenly paralyzed. Doctors were in the dark.

“It’s devastating and then what’s even more frustrating is to tell the parents, ‘I’m sorry. I think this might be due to a virus but I can’t be 100 percent sure.’ That is terrible as a physician to have to give,” said pediatric infectious disease physician Dr. Anna-Kathryn Rye Burch.  

While there was no cause, there was a diagnosis. Hunter was suffering from acute flaccid myelitis or AFM.

AFM is a rare disease affecting less than one in a million people. It attacks the nervous system, specifically, the spinal cord.
The CDC recorded a spike in cases in 2014 with 120 around the country. The number dropped off to just 21 in 2015. And so far in 2016, cases have already more than doubled to 50, adding to the disease’s mystery.

“Unfortunately we don’t know a lot about AFM, what happens in the future, what these kids and adults look like 10 years from now, how much function they actually recover is not known,” said Dr. Rye Burch.

While they wait for answers, Hunter’s showing slow signs of improvement.

“He’s learned to communicate with me, you know, through his trach. He doesn’t have any sound, but he will shake his head. He couldn’t move his head left or right before. Now he moves his head,” said Shumpert.

Any day now, Hunter will leave Children’s for rehab in Charlotte. And after three to five weeks there, it will finally be time to return home.

“I don’t really know. I don’t know what the future holds. I know that I’ll do whatever I have to do to get him back to even halfway normal, but my prayer is that he’s 100 percent once he comes home,” said Shumpert.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account here and have a Wells Fargo account set up under Hunter Tindal to help with medical bills.