ESPN Host Opens Up About Her Frightening Childhood Experience With Transverse Myelitis

According to a story from, Victoria Arlen recently discussed her past experiences with transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which left her in a coma-like state for years. You may be familiar with Arlen, who is the youngest host on ESPN at age twenty-three. She is also a world renowned, gold-medalist swimmer. In addition, she was on Dancing With the Stars this past fall.
Victoria was diagnosed with both transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, conditions in which both the brain and spinal cord become severely inflamed. Symptoms for transverse myelitis include weakness and numb limbs, dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (which can lead to high blood pressure), and loss of sensation and motor ability. Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis can lead to headache, fever, nausea, seizures, confusion, vision impairment, and coma. To learn more about transverse myelitis, click here.

Arlen did not receive timely or accurate medical attention for either of these conditions; it took seven years before doctors realized what was happening to her. After experiencing sharp pain on her right side, doctors removed her appendix. Unfortunately, the pain didn’t go away, and Arlen began to lose weight rapidly. She soon lost the use of her legs, and her cognitive and motor skills ebbed away.

At age eleven, Arlen had slipped into a coma, and she would be in this state from August 2006 to January of 2009. She has absolutely no memory of that time period. When she finally woke up, she realized that she couldn’t move. With no ability to vocalize or communicate in any way, Arlen was trapped in her own unresponsive body. She was able to overhear disturbing conversations between her doctor and family members; they said that she was most likely not going to survive.

After being moved back to her family home in New Hampshire, she was wracked with constant seizures approximately 22 hours a day. Doctors gave her a sleeping pill, and this calmed her body enough to give her a chance to start moving again; but only slightly.

She was able to blink, and this was the first way she was able to communicate with her mother again. Eventually, the long road to recovery began, and she regained movement in most of her body as well as her ability to speak. However, her legs were still unusable, and she was confined to a wheelchair. Doctors told her she probably would not walk again.

A lifelong swimmer, she began to swim again with the encouragement of her triplet brothers, despite the fact that she could not use her legs. Victoria first gained fame by winning three silver medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Remarkably, Victoria regained her walking ability after therapy at a paralysis recovery center. Although she still has permanent loss of sensation in her legs, she was still able to walk again in April of 2016. Her story shows just what people are capable of, even in the face of great odds; instead of allowing her encounter with transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis to hold her back, she harnessed her experience as her motivation to live fully.

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