Growing up in Querétaro, Mexico, María was an exceptionally bright and inquisitive child. At just 18 months old, she spoke at the level of a 6-year-old, and could even sing the tongue-twisting “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” song. Her parents marveled at her intelligence at such a young age, but there was something in her development that seemed off.
“At 1 year, she wasn’t crawling well and had difficulty standing,” her mother, María José, recalls. “She hadn’t learned to walk by 18 months, and she would crawl by pulling her two legs at the same time — like a little bunny.” Her parents knew that something was wrong, so they took her to see a pediatrician in their home country of Mexico.
For a month, Nikki Puzzo walked around with a hockey puck strapped to her torso. But this mother of two wasn’t just being silly or exhibiting her love of sports. Instead, she was demonstrating solidarity with her younger daughter, Stella. The little girl, who has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy (CP), had a device called a baclofen pump implanted into her abdomen. “I wanted her to feel more comfortable and know that she wasn’t alone,” explains Nikki. …
“I’m so excited to babyproof my house,” says Elisa Holt. “I haven’t had to. Now, Noah wants to climb and do all of these normal baby things.”
The toddler, born in March 2014, sailed through his first six months of life.
As summer turned to fall, enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), a mysterious virus linked with paralysis, started to dominate headlines.
On Oct. 3, 2014, Elisa was nursing Noah when she realized something was wrong with her son. “I went to sit him up and he just fell over. I did it again and the same thing happened.” When she realized he wasn’t moving his feet, legs or toes, she called her son’s pediatrician, who directed her to Beverly Hospital.
“We are so so thankful for the emergency room doctor [Dr. Munirah Qualls] who told us, ‘I don’t know. I’m going to send you to Boston Children’s Hospital.’ I know Noah would not be where he is today if the Beverly Hospital doctor did not move us as fast as she did.”
Within 15 minutes, an ambulance arrived to rush Noah to Boston Children’s. The emergency department was on high alert for EV D-68 — a tricky virus that can mask itself as many other illnesses.
“Noah’s doctors were racing against the clock to make a diagnosis,” Elisa says.
She and her husband Mitch cuddled their baby boy.
“We were waiting to see what Noah’s future held. How did we end up here? Would his paralysis be reversible?”