Oklahoma Community Rallies Behind Toddler Battling Rare Disease AFM

Six weeks ago, Gretchen and Josh of Oklahoma rushed their precious 5-month-old Opal to the hospital after she became extremely sick from a cold.

It didn’t take doctors too long to diagnose young Opal with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) — a rare condition that affects children more often than in adults.

What is AFM?

Acute flaccid myelitis is a polio-like rare disease that affects the spinal cord. Symptoms of AFM include sudden weakness in the arm or leg, along with loss of muscle tone and decreased or absent reflexes. In some cases, AFM can affect the nerves controlling the head and neck, causing facial weakness, drooping of the eyelids, and difficulty swallowing, speaking, or moving the eyes.

The most serious complication of AFM is respiratory failure, which may occur if the muscles involved with breathing become weakened.

Hope for Opal

According to Opal’s parents, she has improved while she’s been at Integris Children’s at Baptist Medical Center.

“We’ve come leaps and bounds from when we first started but on the same token, we have a long way to go,” Gretchen said. “Over the course of the last two to three weeks, we’ve noticed just small improvements every day. Especially in movement and in her arms and her legs because she had no movement to begin with.”

And the road to a big recovery is paved with little ones!

“Opal is the youngest documented case, so her care team will work together to determine the best therapies and rehab to help her recover,” Gretchen said.

What’s further worth celebrating is that the community of Shawnee, Oklahoma has really rallied behind Opal and her family — from donating money to volunteering to clean their home!

“We’re not sure what the next few weeks and months ahead look like, but we do know this: We are surrounded by a community who has showed us genuine love and care through a very uncertain time,” Gretchen said. “Our lives have forever been impacted by this experience and certainly by our friends, family and community who have surrounded us in ways we never dreamed.”

To see how you can help aid in Opal’s recovery – or just learn more about her fight with AFM click here for her Facebook page!

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