Stephanie and Dillon of Atoka, Tennessee are the proud parents of a very lively three-year-old named Collin. Normally the little guy can be found tearing around the back yard, bouncing on the couch, and simply doing all those things that active kids like to do. So when Stephanie and Dillon found their son unable to sit up in his bed one morning, they knew that something was very wrong.
They tried to get Collin to stand up, but he couldn’t move his legs. Terrified, Stephanie and Dillon rushed their son to the hospital. On the way they remembered that Collin had taken a bad fall the day before and had hit his head. At the time they had thought nothing of it — Collin had simply stood up, brushed himself off and kept playing. But now they worried that the injury was much more serious than they thought.
At the hospital, Collin’s parents told doctors about the fall and a CAT scan was performed to find out if the boy had suffered any brain damage. The results were a relief, but also a surprise: there was no sign of brain damage. But if the fall wasn’t the cause of Collin’s paralysis, what could it be?
Collin’s condition was worsening by the minute. The paralysis began immobilizing other parts of his body and if he didn’t receive help fast, he would eventually suffocate. His neck was already so stiff that he couldn’t even eat or swallow liquids. Hospital staff worked frantically to diagnose his condition.
The situation was so critical that Stephanie and Dillon made a drastic decision to move their son to a pediatric hospital in nearby Memphis.
When Collin was brought in, a team of doctors was ready. Based on the CAT scan results they knew that the problem had to be something external, so they began a thorough search of Collin’s body. And then they finally found it: a tick hidden behind his ear!
The small arachnid had attached itself to the child’s skin but the problem is that some ticks have a neurotoxin in their salivary glands. This means that as the tick feeds, the toxin enters the bloodstream. This can result in an “ascending paralysis” that starts in the legs and eventually takes over the entire body if the tick is not removed.
Collin probably would have died of a heart attack after another 30 minutes if the doctors at the Memphis hospital hadn’t discovered the tick. Fortunately, their thoroughness and professionalism enabled them to find and remove the nasty intruder before it was too late.
The good news about this kind of paralysis is that it is not permanent and the symptoms quickly disappear once the tick is removed. A few days after the ordeal was over, Collin was back to his old self, running, jumping and playing like a typical three-year-old.
Needless to say, Stephanie and Dillon were very relieved when it was all over. Cases of tick paralysis are actually quite rare and, therefore, difficult to diagnose. There are many places on the human body where ticks can hide, so it takes a keen eye to find them.
Luckily, the parents’ quick reaction combined with an excellent medical team saved Collin’s life. What a great happy ending for the family! And we can all learn an important lesson: if you or your loved ones spend time outside in an area where ticks are known to live, always be sure to check thoroughly afterwards to make sure no one has brought any home.