BY NICOLAS FERNANDES
A girl who was told she was ‘paralysed from the skull down’ is defying doctors by frequently getting out of her wheelchair to run, rock-climb, dance and swim.
Seattle Lennox, nine, of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, lost her ability to walk after suffering a spinal cord injury Transverse Myelitis (TM) after suffering a cold at 15 months old.
The paralysis was caused by an inflammation of both sides of a section of the spinal cord that can develop at any time and interrupts messages sent to the rest of the body.
Doctors didn’t think she would survive the attack, which rarely occurs in young children, and believed the best-case scenario was paralysis from the skull down.
Miraculously, thanks to years of therapy, she has been able to get out of her chair and forces herself to try activities alongside her siblings.
Seattle now can swim, run, dance and rock climb just like her able-bodied friends and family members.
Despite suffering from crippling fatigue and low muscle function, she battles on often pushing herself to the point where her legs physically stop working.
Her mother Lindsay said: “The doctors still stare in amazement every time they see her. They cannot believe it.
“She sees her brother, sister and friends doing things and she’ll want to do it so badly that she’ll just push herself. She’s willing to try anything.
“She is just so determined. That’s how she has been able to do all of this.
“Sometimes she even pushes herself so much that she’ll suddenly fall down.
“Before, doctors either thought she was going to die or be completely paralyzed for the rest of her life.
“She’s the best swimmer in the family. We go swimming every day in the summer and she just swims for hours and hours.
“Running really gives her momentum. She usually doesn’t even have to stop.”
Seattle also stays positive while going through medical treatments, often smiles during her procedures.
After having a foot reconstruction surgery in September, she was supposed to stay home for two months, but returned to school a month early.
Lindsay has shared her daughter’s positivity online to inspire TM patients around the world.
She said: “I’ll look at her when she’s going through an intense procedure and she’ll be smiling.
“Even though she needed to recover, she wanted to be back in school.
“I’ve had other families write to me and tell me that they are thankful that our story is out there and that it inspires them.
“We have Transverse Myelitis friends all over the world.”
Seattle’s classmates are very drawn to her and try to help her as much as they can.
Lindsay said: “She never gets bullied and the other kids are always helping her to the car.”
Despite her positive attitude and impressive abilities, the condition often sets Seattle back.
The symptoms of fatigue affect her while she’s in school and sometimes cause her to fall asleep on her desk.
Her limited muscle strength also makes it difficult for her to write.
Other times when she starts getting tired, it will upset her that her friends can keep playing and she can’t
Lindsay said: “She’ll have so many good ideas sometimes, but she won’t be able to get them down on paper.
“Sometimes she’ll have to take a seat and it will really bother her that her friends are still running around the playground.”
In addition, something as simple as cold can cause her to relapse, losing her walking abilities again and possibly leading to Multiple Sclerosis.
Lindsay said: “We’re constantly trying to make sure she doesn’t get sick and we keep her home as much as possible during flu season.”
Although many TM patients have suffered from a virus leading up to the injury, Gabrielle deFiebre of the Transverse Myelitis Association says a cause has not yet been identified.
Gabrielle, the association’s associate director of research and education, said: “There are no known risk factors or behaviors that predispose someone specifically to Transverse Myelitis.
“Effects include residual motor weakness, sensory changes and bladder and bowel problems.
“In the long-term, some patients with TM may develop increased muscle tone leading to stiffness, painful muscle spasms and, in some cases, contractures.
“Pain can be a significant long-term effect of TM.”
Gabrielle added: “Rehabilitation should be started as soon as someone with a rare neuro-immune disorder is medically cleared for activity, whether one has regained some muscle strength or has shown no short-term recovery.
“Starting a rehabilitation program early can help mitigate some of the bone loss and muscle atrophy that occurs in the areas affected by paralysis.
“A cure would be a therapy that repairs the damage to the spinal cord, which improves neurological symptoms.
“We hope that one day we will be able to repair the damage to the spinal cord and are working on research to accomplish this goal.”