OAKLAND, Calif. - Ten-year-old Sami Winters of Brentwood is slowly getting back on her feet after becoming paralyzed and spending nine weeks at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.
Her mother Tisha Winters told KTVU on Tuesday that Sami was diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a rare but serious neurological disease that causes paralysis, often in children.
Mother and daughter hope that sharing their experience with this little-known illness will help other families.
"She's doing amazing. She's doing really good, but it is scary," said Winters.
Sami was paralyzed from the waist down when she arrived at the hospital in November.
It started with Sami feeling a numbness in her hands and quickly progressed to her being unable to walk.
"It's just scary not knowing if you'll be able to walk. It felt weird when I walked in. My upper back was hurting," said the 5th grader.
Her mother said Sami had a slight cough but was otherwise fine until the sudden paralysis.
"I just want to bring awareness to it," she said. "I was fortunate enough to bring her to the ER and get her immediate help."
Winters shared with KTVU an MRI of Sami's spinal cord. She said her daughter tested positive for the rhinovirus which is a cause of common colds. The virus is in Sami's spine, causing inflammation. It is unknown why the virus can lead to this illness.
Just a few days ago, Sami took her first steps with help.
The Centers for Disease Control said there are 603 confirmed cases nationwide since it started tracking AFM in 2014.
There were 33 confirmed cases in 2019. California had the most: Ten.
So far this year, there are 22 cases nationwide.
"There's a lot of unknown out there," said Winters, adding that the prognosis is not good and there is no cure.
But Sami has hope and determination on her side.
"I want to kick a soccer ball again. Now that I'm thinking about it, I want to come home and get used to it again."
Sami hopes to be released from the hospital in about four weeks.
Her mother is looking into getting her intensive therapy at an out-of-state hospital with the goal of helping her walk again.
"I know she'll walk again. We're just praying for a complete healing of her body and that's what keeps me going," said Winters.
If you're interested in helping Sami, click here.