'He was fighting for his life’: Local family hopes to raise awareness of Polio-like illness

What started as symptoms of the common cold evolved into something much more serious

Local teen battling rare Polio-like illness

CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - Imagine having the symptoms of a common cold and then, suddenly, you are paralyzed. That is what happened to a local teenager who is fighting a rare Polio-like illness called AFM. His family members want to share their story in hopes of raising awareness.

Seth Dryer has been at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for months, fighting AFM, an illness that experts do not know much about. In fact, right now, the Centers for Disease Control or Prevention, or the CDC, is investigating to try to find out what causes it.

Seth’s family members said he is a funny and friendly kid, and now he is also a fighter as he spends his days inside the hospital.

“If we would’ve taken him home that night, he probably would’ve died,” said John Dryer, Seth’s father.

What started in September as symptoms of the common cold evolved into something much more serious for Seth.

“Started to feel a little weak, started throwing up, and then he had the inability to swallow, and that’s what took us to the doctor, took us to another local hospital," said Joni Dryer, Seth’s mother. “The next morning, he was in the ICU fighting for his life."

The 16-year-old’s health rapidly declined, with his organs beginning to shut down. Then, suddenly, he was paralyzed, with the exception of his eyebrows. Doctors saved him, but it took months before they had a diagnosis.

“Acute flaccid myelitis,” said Joni Dryer.

The CDC describes AFM as a rare but serious condition that causes muscles and reflexes in the body to become weak. In Ohio in 2018, 14 cases were reported. CDC officials have been investigating AFM since cases spiked in 2014.

“Their whole key is to figure out what causes it,” said John. “There’s really no cure.”

Seth’s parents and siblings said that he has made significant strides in his recovery. Though he can’t talk, walk, or eat, his legs are functioning, and he has learned to mouth the words he wants to say.

“It’s been very remarkable really that he’s been able to withstand and what he’s been going through," said Joni.

The goal now is to move him back to their Deer Park home in July. His loved ones are undergoing training to learn how to take care of him. They are also reworking the home, adding a ramp and changing the flooring, even removing walls, to make it accessible.

Seth’s family has set up a GoFundMe to help cover the costs of the changes. The Dryers said they are grateful for the generosity of strangers, as thousands have already been raised.

As more people learn about his case, they are hoping that will lead to more research and maybe even a cure.

“There are other people who didn’t make it, so if it’s going to keep happening, like people keep getting it here and everywhere else, they’re going to need to step up their game and start figuring out how to help before it’s too late,” said Jacob Dryer, Seth’s brother.

The CDC believes viruses play a role in AFM. You can learn more about the illness here.

Copyright 2019 WXIX. All rights reserved.