ELIZABETH PAYNE AND BRAD HUNTER
Nearly three months after he arrived at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario suffering from a rare polio-like condition, a four-year-old boy is back home and preparing for school.
Life is quite different for Xavier Downton than it was before he was rushed to CHEO on Sept. 4 suffering from what his family thought was the flu.
The boy, who was looking forward to starting hockey this fall, now uses a wheelchair — something doctors and therapists believe is temporary.
“They think he is going to walk again and probably run again,” said his mother Rachelle Downton. “It just takes time.”
And Xavier now has very little use of his right arm, which has forced him to become left-handed, something he has mastered handily, says his mother.
There are many challenges ahead for Xavier and his family as a result of the damage done by acute flaccid myelitis, the rare condition that felled him on Labour Day weekend.
Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is the term used to describe the sudden onset of weakness in one or more limbs as a result of inflammation of the spinal cord.
Xavier’s story comes on the heels of a new report on the mysterious, rare “polio-like” disease popping up across the U.S. that has now spread to 31 states, sickening at least 250 children.
Here, the Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed that there have been 48 probable cases of AFM across the country in 2018 — 25 confirmed and 23 being investigated.
Officials still have no idea what causes acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), nor how to treat or prevent it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently investigating a further 170 cases of people with AFM symptoms.
Most patients had a mild respiratory illness or fever, consistent with a virus, before becoming ill.
None of the cases have been related to the poliovirus, although the impact is similar to polio. It is a condition that is causing growing concern for public health officials this year.