For Bryson Ackermann of Pittsburgh, PA, baseball has always been his passion. Now 9 years old, Bryson was kept from his team for the last few years. According to KDKA 2 (CBS Pittsburgh), this was because Bryson was battling a formidable opponent: acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a neurological condition which affects the brain’s gray matter.
In 2018, Bryson was first diagnosed with AFM. According to his father Jeff, Bryson was unable to even hold his head up independently. After his diagnosis, Bryson required various assistance, such as mobility assistance (wheelchair). Additionally, Bryson struggled with breathing and swallowing, as well as bodily paralysis. At one point, explains Jeff, Bryson even required a tracheotomy. This procedure is used to enhance breathing when the capacity to breathe is somehow blocked or reduced.
Now, Bryson is back on the baseball field. His position? First base. Over the last year, Jeff and Bryson have been practicing to help Bryson regain his strength. The boy even got some advice from former MLB pitcher Matt Clement, which has helped him learn to throw and catch more effectively.
Most recently, Bryson competed in an All-Star tournament and finally had the opportunity to have fun again doing what he enjoys most.
Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM)
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an uncommon, but often serious, neurological condition which affects the nervous system and gray matter. As a result, patients often experience weak muscles and weak or absent reflexes. In around 90% of diagnoses, patients with AFM are children. Doctors are not sure exactly what causes AFM. However, viral infections are thought to play a role. Symptoms of AFM often come on suddenly. When these appear, symptoms include:
- Arm and leg weakness
- Loss of weakness and muscle tone
- Drooping eyelids and/or difficulty moving the eyes
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking (as well as slurred speech)
- Facial weakness or drooping
- Arm, leg, back, or neck pain
- Respiratory failure (in rare cases)
- Blood pressure instability (in rare cases)
- Numbness or tingling (in rare cases)
If your child is presenting with any of the above symptoms, please visit your medical provider right away. While there is no specific treatment for AFM, doctors may enact a variety of interventions.