Getting a child with a rare illness back on his feet

June 4, 2019

By Alex Branch

Zayd Web

Zayd was about to start his first youth soccer program when his family’s nightmare with Acute Flaccid Myelitis began.

First, the 3-year-old boy from Irving had cold-like symptoms. He no longer bounded into the kitchen in the morning and instead called his mother, Samina Mohammad, to help get him out of bed. His legs wouldn’t hold his weight and, when his mother tickled his feet, he couldn’t feel it.

“My leg is empty!” Zayd cried in confusion.Zayd Web3

An immediate trip to a Fort Worth hospital in October revealed that Zayd had Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), a rare polio-like condition that affects a part of the spinal cord called gray matter. It causes the muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak, numb or even paralyzed.

Cases remain uncommon but increased outbreaks —230 confirmed cases nationally in 2018 — have raised alarm. Some children take months to recover or still face lingering limb weakness or paralysis.

“I had never heard of Acute Flaccid Myelitis before Zayd’s diagnosis,” Mohammad said. “But I googled it that night and it was the worst mistake I ever made. It was terrifying.”

Because AFM cases are so rare, there is no specific treatment recommended for it other than physical and occupational therapy, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease and Prevention Control.

An invasive nerve transfer surgery has been used to help patients recover some limb strength but at the expense of other muscles, said Todd Dombroski, DO, an UNT Health Science Center physician.

Dr. Dombroski started Zayd on a newly FDA-cleared neuromodulation unit. The constantly varying electrical signals stimulate damaged nerves to repair themselves. Twice a day for three months, Mohammad applied the neuromodulation device to Zayd’s legs for about 30 minutes. She noticed Zayd trying to stand again and that his muscle tone improved.

Zayd can now stand by himself for 20 seconds and, with help, lightly kick a soccer ball. He continues physical therapy, and Mohammad said she feels more hopeful about her son’s recovery than ever before.

“His mom messaged us a video of the first time he stood up by himself at home and that was pretty nice to see,” Dr. Dombroski said.

Dr. Dombroski has used the same treatment to help get patients with Guillain- Barre Syndrome, a condition that also causes a similar limb weakness, back on their feet.

Zayd’s family is heartened to see his legs growing stronger. Mohammad said she wants other families to be aware of AFM symptoms and the treatment options available.

“It might be very rare but it does happen,” she said. “I hate the thought of another family having to go through this with their child.”

Student Hina Ajaz
MHA student demonstrates leadership in action in a most critical year

By Sally Crocker In an election year like no other, UNTHSC Master of Health Administration (MHA) student Hina Ajaz stepped up in a major way to help get out the vote and advocate for state and local initiatives supporting public health and health equity. Ajaz plans to work in health...Read more

Jan 21, 2021

New Logo Hsc Install On February 16th On Ead Building.
HSC receives Fort Worth Beautiful Award for 2020-2021

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC Fort Worth) is a recipient of the Fort Worth Beautiful Award for 2020-2021. “I am very proud of the work put in by our Grounds Team which consists of Riaz Dhanji, Raul Cano, and Ignacio Rodriguez,” said Seth Willmoth, ...Read more

Jan 19, 2021

Rickards, Rosenberg, Anderson in the lab
Mountain highs

By Sarah Hewitt I lay on my back on a table with my lower body from the waist down inside a triangular wooden box, not unlike a magician’s box as if I’d volunteered to be sawed in half. Dr. Caroline Rickards, an associate professor from UNT Health Science Center at Fort Worth, secured a...Read more

Jan 15, 2021

Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha
Texas CEAL Consortium works to debunk COVID-19 misinformation

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) is participating in a virtual town hall titled: “United to Debunk Misinformation in Our Communities; A Town Hall on COVID-19.” The webinar will be held on the Zoom platform on Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. (CST)....Read more

Jan 13, 2021