Eight-year-old girl left paralyzed after COVID triggered rare auto-immune disease encephalomyelitis


An otherwise healthy eight-year-old Minnesota girl who contracted COVID has been left paralyzed and fighting for her life after the virus triggered a rare auto-immune disease – and her doctor says there is a rash of similar cases around the world.

While Avella Braun was a perfectly normal young girl living in the south Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington just six months ago, her whole life changed after she tested positive for the virus in early March.

She initially only suffered from low fevers, until her mom, Lani Bauer, discovered her unconscious just days after her positive COVID test, taking the girl to a nearby hospital where she was rushed to the intensive care unit and intubated.

Avella was diagnosed with a rare case of acute disseminated Encephalitis (ADEM), or inflammation of the brain, when the body’s immune system attacks itself, causing the spinal cord and brain to swell.

ADEM is caused by viral infections, with the only virus Avella testing positive for being coronavirus, according to local news network KMSP. 

‘We have every reason to believe that COVID was the triggering virus here,’ Dr. Michael Pitt, Avella’s pediatrician, told the network. 

8-year-old Avella Braun, pictured, tested positive for the virus in March 2021, and suffered only low fevers for the most part until her mom Lani discovered her unconscious one day

8-year-old Avella Braun, pictured, tested positive for the virus in March 2021, and suffered only low fevers for the most part until her mom Lani discovered her unconscious one day

Avella was a healthy young lady just six months ago before contracting COVID-19, which triggered a rare version of acute disseminated Encephalitis (ADEM)

Avella was a healthy young lady just six months ago before contracting COVID-19, which triggered a rare version of acute disseminated Encephalitis (ADEM)

ADEM is caused by viral infections, with the only virus Avella testing positive for being Coronavirus

ADEM is caused by viral infections, with the only virus Avella testing positive for being Coronavirus

‘We’re seeing cases all over the world of ADEM where the only virus they find is COVID.’ 

Avella, who her family said had no preexisting conditions, has now undergone a blood transfusion and the removal of part of her skull to relieve brain pressure and swelling, according to her GoFundMe. 

Medical professionals began making the connection between coronavirus and ADEM in June.

The majority of children recover within four-to-six months, however Avella is reported to have a particularly rare case called AHEM (acute hemorrhagic encephalomyelitis. 

‘We’re seeing an extreme that is very, very rare, but it’s certainly something we would want to prevent,’ Dr. Pitt told NBC News. 

Avella was intubated and had a piece of her skull removed along with a blood transfusion to treat her ADEM

Avella was intubated and had a piece of her skull removed along with a blood transfusion to treat her ADEM

Avella, left, pictured with her mother Lani Bauer, right

Avella, left, pictured with her mother Lani Bauer, right

Avella was diagnosed with a rare case of ADEM, or inflammation of the brain, when the body’s immune system attacks itself, causing the spinal cord and brain to swell

Avella was diagnosed with a rare case of ADEM, or inflammation of the brain, when the body’s immune system attacks itself, causing the spinal cord and brain to swell

Her mother is hoping Avella’s story will inspire other parents to get their children vaccinated and for kids to wear their masks. Meanwhile, over $25,000 has been raised on the family’s GoFundMe as of Friday. 

‘If getting the shot and wearing your mask is one step closer to preventing this (happening) to another child, that’s what I want to stress,’ she told NBC News. 

‘I want to stress to make sure you wear your mask.’

The average age of children who contract ADEM from viral infections are between three and seven years old, with 35 percent of infected children being asymptomatic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Typical symptoms of ADEM are fever, malaise, vomiting, and/or headaches. 

Avella’s mother, Lani, says the family has incurred medical bills totaling over $1.2 million and counting.

The average age of children who contract ADEM from viral infections are between three and seven-years old, with 35 percent of infected children being asymptomatic

The average age of children who contract ADEM from viral infections are between three and seven-years old, with 35 percent of infected children being asymptomatic

'If getting the shot and wearing your mask is one step closer to preventing this (happening) to another child, that's what I want to stress,' Avella's mother Lani told NBC News

‘If getting the shot and wearing your mask is one step closer to preventing this (happening) to another child, that’s what I want to stress,’ Avella’s mother Lani told NBC News



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