Young Girl Hospitalized with Rare Disease Now Released

By Danielle Bradshaw from In the Cloud Copy.

Right before Thanksgiving last year, Sami Winters, an East Bay resident, was admitted to Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California. It’s now 80 days after the medical scare first occurred and Sami is now recuperating at home with her family.

10-year-old Sami has been sent back to her East Contra Costa County residence after having fought with the seemingly sudden bout with a rare and mystifying illness that left her partially unable to move.

Tisha Winters, Sami’s mother, says that about five weeks ago she could hardly move her toes and now she’s able to get around with the aid of her walker.

Sami’s Diagnosis

The illness struck in November after the young girl had just come out of her dentist’s appointment. Sami suddenly reported feeling sick and then her limbs stopped working properly. She was immediately taken to the local emergency room and from there was transported to Benioff Children’s Hospital. The doctors there were able to diagnose her with Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).

What is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

AFM is a very rare disease that is usually found in children (although adults can develop it also) that damages the spinal cord and interferes with its ability to properly send messages to and from the brain via the nervous system. A patient with AFM will begin to experience acute weakness in their arms, and legs, loss of musculature and notably decreased or a complete loss of reflexes.

Although this isn’t the case with every sufferer from this illness, some people that have AFM say that they do feel pain and some even have problems with the nerves that control the neck, head, eyelids, eyes, and throat.

This can result in drooping facial expressions, eyelids, problems moving the head, issues swallowing, speaking, as well as moving the eyes. More serious cases can cause respiratory failure if the respiratory system is sufficiently weakened.

Sami’s mother describes it as having attacked her daughter’s spine, causing nerve damage that negatively affected her muscles.

Sami’s Recovery

Sami’s been in physical therapy six days out of every week and her doctors are hopeful that she’ll soon be walking without assistance. While her parents are very grateful that their daughter will be ok, they are aware that everyone isn’t as lucky as they’ve been.

There are cases of AFM leaving people paralyzed from the neck down, Tisha says. She goes on to say that they are very fortunate for their daughter’s recovery. The family’s ultimate goals are to support Sami through her recovery and to raise awareness for this illness.

Sami still has a long road ahead of her and is still waiting to be admitted to a physical therapy facility in Maryland that can help her heal further. This didn’t stop her from walking out of the hospital on Tuesday wearing a shirt that had, “You Got This Girl” emblazoned on the front. That simple statement sums up Sami’s feelings about the ordeal quite nicely. It might be hard, but she’s going to do what she has to do, regardless.

Sami says that “I’m thankful for my arms, or my legs, or my hands; but when it actually happens, you realize you need them, now.”

What Lies Ahead for the Winters Family

Needless to say, things will never be the same for the Winters. Sam Winters, Sami’s father, says that life can change so quickly and that the best thing that people can do is to be grateful for everything they’ve got.

Sami, meanwhile, just wants to cuddle with their dogs and make a trip to Taco Bell. She smiled and said that she’s really in the mood for some nacho fries.

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