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Influenza Encephalitis Lived Experience- Audrey B’s Story

In February of 2020, at 4 years old, Audrey came down with a viral illness. Fever, mild congestion and cough, which progressed to higher/worsening fever, vomiting, and lethargy. Her paediatrician was concerned for pneumonia and sent us to the local emergency room (ER). We were originally sent home from the ER and told “she’ll be fine and running around in 2 days.”

By the next morning (less than 12 hours later) Audrey’s lethargy and vomiting continued and progressed to where she was completely obtunded, nonverbal and with rapid eye movements mimicking seizures. We were rushed back to the ER via ambulance where she received a full work up (CT, lumbar puncture, EEG, MRI, etc). She was diagnosed with influenza B encephalitis.

After diagnosis she was admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and required high dose pulse steroids, sedation (to battle the fits and allow her to physically rest), IVIG, and an experimental antiviral treatment of adult dosage antivirals.

Initially the doctors weren’t sure how much function she would gain, but slowly we watched her re-go through all her infant milestones. First, she could track, then reach for things, then I (her mother) was cleared to feed her so she could have her feeding tube removed. After that more gross motor skills came: crawling, kneeling, standing, and finally walking.

The original plan was for her to do inpatient rehab, but the 2020 Covid pandemic hit. So, the majority of her therapies ended up being at home via zoom. Despite the online challenges, thanks to her incredible therapists, Audrey has gained almost complete function.

She still continues with occupational therapy to help battle an underlying hand tremor and weakness. However, she has graduated from both physical and speech and language therapy and is an avid dancer and performer. She just finished 3rd grade and is moving into 4th. She is meeting all academic grade expectations with the help of her education 504 plan.

She now wants to be an occupational therapist when she grows up to help others like her. We are incredibly proud of Audrey and all that she has overcome.

(Story told by her mum Shannon and  published in June 2024)

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Page Created: 28 June 2024
Last Modified: 15 July 2024
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