Rare illness leaves 3-year-old Chesterfield boy paralyzed

CHESTERFIELD, VA. (WRIC)  —  A 3-year-old Chesterfield boy is recovering from a rare illness that paralyzed him within days.

Carter Roberts woke up sick in late July. It’s a day his mom will never forget.

2df30e3a1c504bd083ccc39bed5eb505“At 8 a.m., we found him on the floor saying, ‘mommy help me, help me,’ and that’s when we scooped Carter up and went to the ER,” Robin Roberts recalled.

That trip to the emergency room evolved into days and then weeks in the hospital as doctors struggled to figure out what was wrong with Carter. The little boy lost movement in his left arm, then his right and eventually he couldn’t move at all.

His tearful mom explains the heartache as, “you just don’t expect that kind of change, that quickly.”

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Carter is now paralyzed from the nose down. He suffers from a rare illness called Acute Flaccid Myelitis, or AFM. It’s a relatively new condition that doctors believe is triggered by a virus. There is no treatment and no cure.

“No child should have to go through this,” Carter’s physician at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Dr. Sanjai Rao, told 8News Reporter Kristin Smith. “No family should have to go through this, but it does exist and we do run across this in medicine way too often.”

“No child should have to go through this. No family should have to go through this, but it does exist and we do run across this in medicine way too often.” — Dr. Sanjai Rao

The hardest part for mom is, “I think when you see him frustrated and crying,” she said. “He wants to be able to do stuff, or he wants to be able to move his hand and the fact that that changed so rapidly is the hardest thing to see as a mom.”

Only a handful of children ever diagnosed with AFM have fully recovered.

d7665303ca2047a48b08ffdeb68830cf“We can now decide, ‘ok how do we teach him to communicate with others? How do we communicate with Carter?’ That is what we are doing now. That’s where the effort shifts to,” Dr. Rao explained.

Carter’s mom hopes her son will defy the odds. They left Richmond Tuesday morning for an inpatient rehabilitation facility in Maryland that specializes in his illness. He will spend at least the next four weeks there.

In the meantime, both of Carter’s parents have been forced to take leave from their full-time jobs in order to take care of their son and his two older sisters. Insurance only covers so much and medical bills are starting to pile up.

If you would like to help Carter and his family, there are several fundraising efforts underway. You can visit Carter’s gofundme page or donate here or here.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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