Janesville family shares story dealing with rare disease

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) More cases of a rare disease that’s similar to polio are popping up across the nation.

We’re seeing it here in Wisconsin. It’s called Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating 127 potential cases right now.

62 have been confirmed coming from 22 states. Two of the cases are from Wisconsin.

The disease paralyzed a boy from Janesville two years ago.

“It was terrifying, frightening, absolutely horrifying.”

That’s what the McNalls thought while their son August was in the hospital with an unknown disease that had him paralyzed.

It all started on May 3rd, 2016.

“I was having some coffee in the living room and I got a call saying August said his arm hurt and his hand wouldn’t work,” said Grant McNall, August’s dad.

By the time they got him to the emergency room in Janesville, he couldn’t stand anymore.

Doctors there didn’t know what was happening so he was taken to Madison.

“[The doctor] said she doesn’t know what it is. We’re going to treat it as our worst case scenario and started a protocol, that we now know, kids with AFM that got that protocol, did very well,” said Stacy McNall, August’s mom.

AFM is a neurological illness that leads to sudden weakness in limbs.

For August, it’s more than just weakness.

“Sometimes I just like to pretend that my fingers are just in a coma and they’re not gonna wake up any time soon,” August said.

It’s a very rare illness with less than one in a million cases in the U.S.

While the McNalls don’t want people to be afraid of every sniffle, they say the more people that know, the better.

“If we don’t educate people, and our doctors don’t understand, and teachers aren’t recognizing it and parents don’t understand, more and more children won’t get the treatment they need,” Stacy said.

For now, August continues trying to keep his physical therapy going, working on his balance and relearning how to play video games with a right hand that doesn’t want to move.

The McNalls aren’t sure if or when August will regain use of his right hand.

He recently underwent surgery to try and improve his situation with minimal success.

They’re also unsure how long he’ll have to keep up with physical therapy.

Health officials do want to remind people this is a rare disease, but they say you should be on the lookout for symptoms in your children.

“It’s arm weakness, leg weakness, loss of reflexes, difficulty speaking or swallowing. They should immediately seek medical attention,” Ryan Wozniak, with Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said.

Officials with the state department of health say the CDC is still trying to figure out what causes the disease.

To prevent AFM, experts suggest basic things like washing your hands frequently and staying up to date on vaccinations.

Francisco Almenara

Francisco Almenara

Reporter, WKOW

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