Infection leaves boy working to get movement back
If this were a normal week, Cory Quirk might be getting ready for a baseball game right about now. He might be hanging out with friends or working on homework.
The kind of stuff any middle school student might be doing.
But for Cory, life hasn't been anything like normal for more than a month now. Instead of spending days with friends at Rosemount Middle School and afternoons playing for the eighth grade baseball team at RMS, he's working hard just to feel steady on his feet again and get back full use of his hands.
Doctors have told him that should all come eventually, but it's going to take time and it's going to take patience.
Cory's problems started April 7 when he woke up with a sore back. He went to school, but as the day continued things got worse. He was sitting in science class, correcting a test about motion of all things, when he started to lose feeling in his hands. He couldn't hold a pencil.
He went to the school nurse, then went home to rest. But as the day progressed the numbness spread. After a while he couldn't use his hands or arms. Then his legs stopped working. All of a sudden a boy who loved to be active couldn't even get up off of the couch.
Eventually, his chest started to feel tight and it got hard to breathe.
"That was pretty much the worst," Cory said. "All I could think about was, what's going to happen when my dad gets home, because I wasn't able to call him."
Cory's father brought him to the emergency room, then he went by the ambulance to a pediatric ICU. Within 12 hours he was on a respirator.
"I was sort of confused," Cory said. "I was drugged for a lot of the time the first couple of days. I woke up and I wasn't able to talk because I had tubes going through my throat. I couldn't move very well."
Doctors diagnosed Cory quickly with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spine that occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacking the nervous system. Cory and his parents knew early on he would eventually get back full use of his arms and legs, but doctors also told him it would take a lot of work.
"We just had to wait it out," Cory's mother, Vicki, said. "They told us it would be a roller-coaster ride from the very beginning."
For the past several weeks Cory has been working with physical therapists to get motion back in his arms and legs. He's worked in a pool and he's gotten electrical stimulation to his muscles. Cory estimates he puts in six hours of rehab work every day.
He's getting better at walking, but his arms and hands, the first thing to go, will likely be the last to return.
Cory has also covered his school material while he's been in the hospital. He should finish eighth grade along with his classmates.
In the meantime, the active baseball and football player and snowboarder is anxious to get back out and get active again.
"I'm getting closer to that every day," he said.
There will be a benefit to help Cory's family with medical costs June 19 at Rudy's Redeye Grill in Rosemount. The restaurant's owners are the parents of one of Cory's friends. The event will feature a barbecue buffet, root beer floats and non-alcoholic drinks. There will also be door prizes. The event will take place from noon to 4 p.m.