Christopher was a playful two-year-old who had a kind heart. If there was love and affection to be had you could bet that he would be first in line to give and receive. He had an innate sense of who needed a hug or a friendly smile. Frequently, his parents would be told about how he comforted a new friend at daycare. He also had a love for the outdoors and for animals.
But, on February 28, 2011, Christopher appeared to be quieter and less active than normal. His usual furious appetite was missing and his smiley demeanor absent. He seemed uncomfortable, but did not have any outward signs of being terribly sick. His parents put him to bed early and agreed that his stomach must have been bothering him. Christopher’s mother woke-up around 1:00 a.m. with uneasiness and a desire to check on him. She decided to sleep on his floor for the rest of the night. Around 3:00 a.m. she was awoken to Christopher having a seizure. He had never seized before. His mother called 911 and he was rushed to Reston Hospital. There his parents would soon find out that he had suffered a sudden onset of Influenza B, which caused him to spike a very high fever and have the seizure.
That night Christopher seized for 75 minutes straight. The hospital staff could not get an IV into his arm so they had to place an Intraosseous infusion (IO) into his shin. He was intubated and prepared for transfer to INOVA Fairfax Hospital PICU. Christopher showed no sign of alertness throughout this ordeal. His eyes were shut and his body lifeless.
The staff at Fairfax Hospital originally thought that he was overdosed in Reston Hospital, thus his inability to wake-up. His parents were assured that once the Valium wore off that he would wake-up and be fine. After 24 hours, the doctors removed him from the ventilator and after 48 hours they transferred him to the general ward of the hospital. However, Christopher still showed no signs of waking up. Upon his mother’s insistence, an infectious disease doctor examined Christopher. This doctor was able to diagnosis him with Influenza B and ordered an immediate MRI. Christopher was completely unresponsive to sound or touch. Upon review of the MRI, the neurologist advised his parents that Christopher had suffered a rare side effect of the flu – viral encephalitis. The flu and viral encephalitis had give Christopher a brain injury.
Christopher lost the ability to sit, crawl, walk and run. He lost the ability to eat and drink. He lost his ability to speak. The injury had also taken his sight and possibly impaired his hearing. After a few more days at Fairfax Hospital, Christopher was transferred to Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) for Pediatric brain and spinal cord injuries. After three months in KKI, Christopher was discharged to his parent’s care in Northern Virginia. He has continued with his rehabilitation through private Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Physical Therapy.
Christopher has learned how to sit, crawl and walk again. His parents took his feeding tube out in July 2012 when he finally learned how to drink and eat solid food again. His vision seems to be miraculously improving, but he still has some issues with depth perception. His affectionate nature and love has returned. Although he has not spoken a word again since the injury, his mother remains optimistic that she will hear him call her “Mommy” again soon.
Christopher received the first of two flu shots in November 2010; however, in December he got pneumonia and his parents were told that he could not get vaccinated with his second dose until the pneumonia cleared. Time got away from his parents and they never brought him in for the second shot in the series. Now every year Christopher and his parents get vaccinated against the flu.
- Katie McKinley-Rosen
Place of Residence:
- Fairfax, VA
- 2-years-old, 2011