Child Of The Month
By Rich Petersen
Mario Alberto V.G.
Three years ago while at school Mario began having severe back pain and his legs felt “all tingly”—as if they were “asleep.” He returned home as usual but the pain and tingly feeling continued. The next morning Mario was unable to move his legs!
These dramatic and sudden symptoms are caused by “transverse myelitis,” an inflammation across both sides of one level of the spinal cord. The inflammation affects the “myelin,” the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers.
Transverse myelitis is one of the most enigmatic diseases in that there is no cure except for exercise to keep the muscles as strong as possible and hopefully to enable to nerves to reconnect as they should. The patient’s condition usually comes on following a viral infection or an abnormal immune reaction. Family history plays no part, and the patient is soon confined to a wheelchair. The only “infection” that they can recall was a bout of the flu a few weeks earlier.
At the time Mario was 13, just beginning his teenage years and his first year in high school. Because of his father’s job, Mario’s family is fortunate to have IMSS medical insurance so they took him immediately to one of the hospitals in Guadalajara, but, as I mentioned, there is no cure for this affliction and they were told only that he must have extensive physical therapy to try to counteract the disease.
The family then went to a private physician who prescribed anti-inflammatory injections and other medications to reduce the inflammation, but soon these treatments became too expensive for the family budget and that is when the family came to Niños Incapacitados for some financial help.
So, for now Mario has biweekly therapy sessions at IMSS in Guadalajara as well as exercises at home which he does on his own and with his mother’s help. Niños Incapacitados was very fortunate two years ago to obtain some used exercise equipment through an anonymous donor who contacted us in hopes one of our children could use this equipment. The offer couldn’t have come at a better time for Mario. We were able to give him parallel bars to support his arms while he practices walking, as well as a special toilet seat and a better walker.
Mario is getting better. He uses his walker most of the time but also has a wheelchair at home. At our last meeting he (with his walker) walked a good distance from the hotel parking lot to the meeting room, and was able to stand in front of the group and give us a big smile and a shy “gracias.”
A side effect which has yet to be addressed is loss of bladder control due to lower extremity inactivity and thus he wears a diaper. For this reason Mario does not want to return to school, and we are looking for a tutor for him so he can continue his education.
However, he is very happy with his progress so far, as I hope can be seen on his face in the picture. His family is super-supportive and we are all hopeful that with time and continued physical therapy, he will be walking without need of help. This may take months-to-years to achieve, however, and we hope he is one of the 35% of people with this affliction who experience partial or full recovery.
To meet another of “our” children and to learn more about what Niños Incapacitados does, please join us the second Thursday of each month for our members’ meeting–10:00 a.m. at the Hotel Real de Chapala in La Floresta. Our May meeting on Thursday the 8th will be the last one until September as we take the summer “off” since many of our members and volunteers return north. Nonetheless, we continue helping the 140 children in our program twelve months of the year. Please visit our website to learn more: www.programaninos.org