A 4-year-old boy who loves to play basketball is now confined to a wheelchair and is unable to speak after he was hit by a brain-damaging disease triggered by the flu.
Acute Necrotizing Encephalopathy
Andre Carson spent 11 days on life support after he contracted the H1N1 flu virus that triggered acute necrotizing encephalopathy (ANE), a rare type of brain disease that may occur following a viral infection such as the flu.
Initial symptoms of ANE that last for a few days include fever, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, and congestion. Following these flu-like symptoms, patients develop neurological problems such as hallucinations, difficulty in coordinating movements, seizures, and abnormal muscle tone. Some individuals go into coma, which can last for several weeks.
The condition can cause lesions to develop in regions of the brain, which leads to bleeding, swelling, and eventually death of the organ's tissue.
Andre's mom, Kamareia Parrish, found her child unresponsive and barely breathing just hours after her son was diagnosed with a common cold on March 29, 2017.
The boy had to be rushed to the hospital by an ambulance at 2 a.m. and placed on life support. Doctors treated him with steroids and informed Parrish the boy suffered severe damage to his brain stem and left side of the brain.
Parrish feared that her child would die. ANE is deadly. Thirty percent of those who contract the illness do not survive, but the boy apparently fought for his life.
After spending two months in rehabilitation, Andre started to voluntarily move his limbs and eyes. Finally, in June last year, he was able to return home.
He still depends on a wheelchair and cannot verbally communicate, but he is taking his first steps via a walker. He also communicates using an electronic device and remains a Golden State Warriors fan.
"Our goals for the year are to speak two-word sentences, to start walking independently, to grow his vocab," Parrish said. "I have to stay positive because he's lucky. Science says he shouldn't be here anymore. I know he will keep trying and fighting."
The risk for ANE highlights the importance of flu vaccination. Parrish said that her son was vaccinated. Unfortunately, the shot was for a different strain of the virus.
"While you wonder how he gets through his days now that flu has forever changed the shape of his life, remember, he wasn't given the choice. If Andre contracts influenza again it could be deadly. Protect you and everyone around you," urges the End- FLUenza Project, an organization that Parrish works with.