Mom of Quadriplegic Daughter Is Speaking Out About the Polio-Like Illness AFM

A woman in Oregon has been contending with her daughter's AFM diagnosis for four years. Now, as more children are diagnosed with the illness, she's speaking out. 

October 22, 2018

Angie Andersen

As of Monday, October 22, 155 cases of the polio-like illness acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) are under investigation, according to the CDC. The illness, which starts out like a common cold, affects mostly children. Now, a mother in Oregon is speaking out about her family's experience with the virus.

Angie Andersen's now-10-year-old daughter McKenzie came down with what appeared to be a cold back in 2014. She initially complained of stiffness in her neck. Andersen says doctors recommended icing it, but twelve days later, McKenzie's legs stopped working. By the time she was diagnosed with the virus, she was paralyzed, and to this day, remains a quadriplegic.

Andersen told NBC affiliate 11 Alive on Saturday that she feels the Centers for Disease Control is falling short on their duties in investigating the virus, as it is still statistically rare. A few hundred American children have been diagnosed with AFM since 2014. Yet, with various cases cropping up in recent months, Andersen believes it's time that the CD step up. 

“This is turning into like a modern-day polio, and if they wait for these numbers to hit the thousands, that’s criminal,” Andersen said.

She's also, understandably, distressed by the fact that the health care community as a whole is failing to acquire new information about the illness. “I feel that it's ignorance," she told 11 Alive. "Medical facilities, places still don't know about it.”

In the meantime, she runs a Facebook group for her daughter and aims to raise awareness about the illness, sharing updates on McKenzie's progress, which of course the family is "thrilled" about, according to Andersen. She has regained partial use of her left hand, and earlier this year, feeling returned to her right thumb. And come Halloween, McKenzie will have a surgery on her spine.

Angie Andersen

In addition to raising awareness about AFM, Andersen encourages parents to be their children's best health advocates and demand that kids who have cold symptoms get tested for the virus. 

The concerned mother recently wrote on her daughter's Facebook page, "When they say children recover quickly that is so not true. Even the children far less affected have long-term problems stemming from this and for most children the progress is slow and for some very slow. If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms that have been told in all these stories. Like respiratory issues, numbness or tingling in limbs, unexplained headaches or stiff painful and rigid necks where they can’t tip there head back. Get them to an ER and checked out immediately."

She is also encouraging parents to demand that the CDC and Congress take action. "How do you figure out a disease if you don’t follow the cases!" Andersen wrote. "We need more research! ... People need to be aware of the full picture and be as educated as they can! ... Please write your senators and congressmen and women! Tell them something needs to be done!"



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