Five-year-old girl’s paral­y­sis a mys­tery

Then her mother checked her scalp

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Cleve R. Woot­son Jr.

As soon as Kai­lyn Grif­fin’s feet hit the floor Wed­nes­day morn­ing, she col­lapsed in a heap.

The 5-year-old kept try­ing to stand but fell every time. She was also strug­gling to speak, her mother Jes­sica Grif­fin no­ticed.

Her daugh­ter had been fine when the fam­ily went out to a T-ball game the night be­fore, Mid­way, Fla., ABC-af­fil­i­ate WTXL re­ported. Maybe Kai­lyn was hav­ing a hard time wak­ing up Wed­nes­day morn­ing, or per­haps her legs were asleep.

Then Grif­fin saw the tick.

She had gath­ered Kai­lyn’s hair to put it in a pony­tail when she spot­ted the in­sect, em­bed­ded in the girl’s scalp, swelled with the girl’s blood.

She pulled the tick out and placed it in a plas­tic bag, then rushed to the hospi­tal with Kai­lyn, WTXL re­ported. Doc­tors told Grif­fin it was an un­com­mon con­di­tion called tick paral­y­sis.

“Af­ter tons of blood work and a CT of the head UMMC has ruled it as tick paral­y­sis! PLEASE for the love of god check your kids for ticks! It’s more com­mon in chil­dren than it is adults!” Grif­fin, of Gre­nada, Miss., wrote in a Face­book post Wed­nes­day that seemed a mix­ture of worry and re­lief.

“Scary is a UN­DER­STATE­MENT!”

Grif­fin could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment. It was un­clear where or when she thought her daugh­ter had ac­quired the tick, or how long it had been on her body. Ticks are most ac­tive from April through Septem­ber, The Wash­ing­ton Post has re­ported.

Tick paral­y­sis is caused by fe­male ticks on the verge of lay­ing eggs. Af­ter the tick eats a blood meal and is en­gorged, it se­cretes a neu­ro­toxin into the host, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Lyme dis­ease Foun­da­tion.

The symp­toms can oc­cur five to seven days af­ter the tick starts feed­ing.

Paral­y­sis be­gins in the legs, then spreads to the up­per ex­trem­i­ties. It can man­i­fest as fa­tigue, numb­ness and an in­creas­ing in­abil­ity to move, ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion.

In the later stages it is harder for the vic­tim to move her face or tongue. If noth­ing is done, the toxin ul­ti­mately makes it im­pos­si­ble for a per­son to breathe, re­sult­ing in res­pi­ra­tory fail­ure.

The paral­y­sis is more com­mon in an­i­mals, which are un­able to check them­selves for the ticks.

But hu­man chil­dren are also sus­cep­ti­ble be­cause of their smaller body mass. Girls get tick paral­y­sis more fre­quently be­cause the ticks can eas­ily hide in a mass of hair, ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion.

The CDC re­ported a clus­ter of cases of the ex­tremely rare dis­ease in 2006. One of the vic­tims was a 6-year-old girl who had trou­ble walk­ing a week af­ter vis­it­ing her grand­mother in the moun­tains of Larimer County. A nurse bathing her af­ter she was ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal found a tick along her hair­line.

And last year, Amanda Lewis woke up and found that her 3-year-old daugh­ter, Eve­lyn, couldn’t stand no mat­ter how hard the lit­tle girl tried, ac­cord­ing to the La Grande Observer.

The La Grande, Ore., woman posted a video on Face­book, hop­ing fam­ily mem­bers or friends could help fig­ure out what was caus­ing the girl’s sud­den strange ail­ment. They couldn’t, but the video was watched some 22 mil­lion times and shared more than 600,000 times.

At the hospi­tal that day, physi­cian John Page saw that a 3-year-old had been ad­mit­ted with ataxia and sus­pected that it might be tick paral­y­sis.

He scoured the girl’s scalp and found the in­sect, which was em­bed­ded in the skin and could have been eas­ily dis­missed as a red bump. Once it was re­moved, Eve­lyn was walk­ing the next day.

In Mis­sis­sippi last week, Kai­lyn Grif­fin had a sim­i­larly quick re­cov­ery.

Her mom’s last pic­ture of the in­ci­dent showed the girl grasp­ing two bal­loons in a hospi­tal hall­way.

“Look who is WALK­ING out of the hospi­tal!” Grif­fin wrote, in­clud­ing a raised hands emoji.

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