Toddler recovering from rare tick paralysis
A two-year-old Hopewell Junction girl experienced a quick onset of paralysis. It wasn't until after spinal taps, x-rays and blood work proved inconclusive that one doctor thought to check her scalp for the unlikely culprit. Our Erin Vannella reports.
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ALBANY, N.Y. – “Two days without being able to walk or talk or eat or drink,” said Rachel Tomlins.
Tomlins cries for her little girl, relieved the doctors at Albany Med identified and cured two-year-old Jenna's sudden onset of paralysis.
Tomlins said, “I told them she's not eating, she's not drinking, she's not going to the bathroom and they said just wait until tomorrow.”
After a series of inconclusive lab tests, assistant professor of pediatric neurology Dr. Karen Powers saw Jenna at 11:30 Saturday morning and found the problem, an engorged tick at the base of her neck.
“I had seen a similar case when I had done my training in Virginia and it just really came to mind very quickly ‘cause it's so striking when you see it,” Dr. Powers said.
It was a dog tick Powers explains, that ultimately injects poison into its host. That neurotoxin can be debilitating in rare instances like this. But because it's not an infection, says Powers, simply removing the tick and its toxin in time, is, and was for Jenna, a simple cure.
“Honestly, at that moment, I felt like a bad parent. How did I let this go?” Tomlins said. “It's like you wash your hair and your brush your hair, but like how did we miss it?”
Missing it could have resulted in complete respiratory failure says Powers. Instead, Jenna will have no lasting symptoms. It's the first case of its kind in the northeast since 1998 and doctors say, with the proper precautions, others can be avoided.