A terrifying neurological disorder left a woman paralysed from the breast-line down when 18-weeks pregnant with her first child.
Customer service agent Anita Brewer, 31, was pregnant with her now 10-month-old son Van in June last year when she first started to experience back pain and numbness in her feet and legs.
Doctors agreed that her symptoms were due to her unborn baby causing pressure in the body, and prescribed painkillers.
Within a week, the woman’s symptoms worsened to the point where she struggled to walk, couldn’t urinate and the pain and numbness she experienced was unbearable.
The mother and her husband Grant, from Atlanta, Georgia, US, rushed to hospital where the woman was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis – a rare neurological condition affecting the central nervous system that causes inflammation of the spinal cord.
Ms Brewer remained in hospital for three weeks when doctors tried every treatment available, but to no avail.
Her condition left her paralysed from the breast-line down, meaning that she needs help with most day-to-day tasks such as dressing herself, managing her bowel and bladder, and getting in and out of the shower. As a result, the first-time mum cannot play with her son as she hoped.
Over the past year, Ms Brewer has had lots of physical therapy and Botox injections to deal with the nerve pain but the only treatment that could help her walk again is stem cell therapy that is hoped could help rebuild her spinal cord.
Her husband is hoping to raise $100,000 in fundraising for this on GoFundMe.
First signs something was wrong during pregnancy
“I noticed some back pain and a little bit of numbness beginning in my lower extremities about a week prior. We all thought that this was due to the baby causing some pressure. We even went to our family doctor to get her opinion and got prescribed some pain medication,” Ms Brewer said.
“The night before we went to the emergency room, the pain was excruciating, and the numbness was getting even more pronounced. It got to the point where I was unable to urinate. That is when we knew something was definitely not right.
“Walking into the hospital early in the morning as I was dragging one of my legs was the last time I walked. I spent nearly three weeks in the hospital and went through every type of treatment available with no improvement,” Ms Brewer said.
“I had not heard of this condition before it happened to me. It is basically inflammation of the spinal cord. The inflammation causes the nerves to be pinched and depending on the level of injury can cause loss of feeling and paralysis of some or all of your body.
“I’ve now come to know that this is a very rare disease and the cause of my particular TM is even rarer as it happened while I was 18-weeks pregnant,” she said.
First-time mum needs help with most day-to-day tasks
Transverse Myelitis affects every part of Ms Brewer’s everyday life.
“I need help doing the most simple of tasks as I have been paralysed from breast-line down. I can only partially dress myself. I need assistance to manage my bladder and bowel. I cannot shower by myself and need help getting into the shower, the list goes on,” she said.
“After our son was born back in September, I never really got to experience the motherhood that I had in mind. It is very difficult to hold him, I can’t play with him the way I thought I would be able to, nor take care of him.
“My mother, father and husband pretty much have to do everything. We’ve all went through depression and I have to take medication to alleviate my mind from anxiety. It’s a very difficult process.
“I’ve had a lot of physical therapy, botox injections at the site of injury to help deal with the nerve pain which seems constant. The only real treatment available that could help me walk again would be stem cell therapy that could help rebuild my spinal cord.”
What is Transverse Myelitis?
Transverse Myelitis is an attack of inflammation of the spinal cord. It is caused by the body’s immune system becoming mis-programmed and activating immune cells to attack the healthy myelin covering the nerves in the spine. It may occur on its own or with another illness and can develop alongside bacterial or viral infections.
However, Ms Brewer’s Transverse Myelitis was caused by a vascular form of the condition that affected the blood supply to the spinal cord area which was thought to be manifested due to the pregnancy. Despite this, she gave birth to Van naturally.
She and her husband try to remain positive and hope that they can inspire others living with something similar.