A woman from Wales was completely paralyzed after waking up with what appeared to be a sore neck one morning in August, 2016. Doctors were baffled to find that a healthy woman had become paralyzed within hours of waking up. She was later diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder known as transverse myelitis.
The rare condition causes an inflammation on both sides of one section of the spinal cord and often damages the insulating material that's covering nerve cell fibers (myelin). The disorder interrupts the messages the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body. The interruptions can cause sensory problems, muscle weakness, paralysis, or bladder and bowel dysfunction.
The woman, Helen Fincham, 23, can now brush her own hair, feed herself and even do push-ups with some help after intensive treatment.
Symptoms of transverse myelitis
Signs and symptoms usually develop from over a few hours to a few days. It may sometimes progress gradually over several weeks. The signs include pain in the lower back, may shoot down the legs or arms or around your chest or abdomen. There might be sensations of tingling, numbness, coldness or burning, bladder and bowel dysfunction.
Fincham told Wales Online: "Everything was taken from me at 21. I would even cry at night yet couldn't wipe my own tears."
She added: "But look at me now. I can move my arms and hands and have only a little independence back but it's been more than I could of asked for and I'm so grateful."
Helen spent months in rehabilitation at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff and feared she would never recover.
"It was awful at the beginning in A&E as everyone was clueless (as to) how my complete paralysis came on out of nowhere in less than an hour or so," she said. "I had numerous tests for two months figuring out the paralysis. But nothing could tell why. So I had nothing to use for acceptance but to live with it, live with being spoon fed and everything."
Causes of transverse myelitis
The exact reason for the disorder is not known but there are a number of conditions that appear to cause the disorder, according to Mayo Clinic.
It includes viral and other infections of the respiratory tract or the gastrointestinal tract, multiple sclerosis -- a disorder where the immune system destroys the myelin surrounding nerves in the spinal cord and brain.
It can also occur sue to neuromyelitis optica (Devic's disease) – a condition which causes inflammation and myelin loss near the spinal cord and the nerve in the eye that transmits information to the brain.
The "flinches" in her hands were soon followed by steady movement in her arms. Currently, private treatment is helping Helen to go further in her recovery which she never thought was possible.
"So lucky regaining movement. Things have changed so much for me. I still struggle with tasks as I have no triceps in my one arm and the other (is) ridiculously weaker," she said, after completing her first push ups this month.
Helen also added: "I am happier now that I don't have to be spoon fed, or someone having to brush my hair and teeth and all the other things we do daily with our arms and hands that I took for granted before."