Five-year-old schoolgirl left paralysed after mystery virus

Paige Gibson developed a virus which has led to paralysis from the waist down. Picture: Contributed.
Paige Gibson developed a virus which has led to paralysis from the waist down. Picture: Contributed.
Share this article

SHE was a normal four-year-old girl – bright, bubbly and bursting with energy.

So when she began to get ill, first suffering a headache and lack of appetite, her mum expected her to bounce back to full fitness the following day.

Paige Gibson (left). Picture: Contributed.

Paige Gibson (left). Picture: Contributed.

But to her horror, little Paige Gibson’s health had not only deteriorated – but she had lost the use of her legs.

That was three months ago, and the West Lothian schoolgirl has still been unable to take a step on her own.

It was only on Saturday – Christmas Eve – that she was able to go home for the first time since being admitted to hospital in September.

Today, however, she will return to the Sick Kids in Edinburgh to resume treatment for a mystery condition that has left doctors baffled.

Her mum Alana Miller said her now five-year-old daughter had been active and healthy.

“She was a normal little girl,” she said. “Running around with no health problems whatsoever.

“Then she started showing signs of being poorly – being off her food and having a headache. And the following day her legs wouldn’t work.”

The Stoneyburn Primary School pupil was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (ASM) after a common virus mutated and attacked her spinal chord.

There have been 36 cases of the virus – Entereovirus D68 – in Scotland this year, more than double last year’s tally, with the vast majority of children suffering from severe cold symptoms at the worst.

But Paige is believed to be one of three young patients currently being treated for paralysis at the Sick Kids – and doctors don’t know if it’s permanent.

Awareness of the condition is growing in the UK after hundreds of cases were documented in America – and so far reports suggest no child has ever fully recovered from the paralysis.

Paige’s family are now raising money for extra physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions to give the youngster hope that she will walk again.

“She hadn’t been home between September and Christmas Day,” Alana said. “We are three months on from this happening and they can’t tell me if it’s permanent. The hardest part is not knowing – it’s a terrifying thought that this is forever.”

Paige’s legs are strapped into special splints to help build up her muscles.

“It’s heartbreaking to see your healthy wee girl, who is totally independent, have to rely on others for help with everything from going to the toilet to getting dressed,” Alana said.

Paige has three siblings – Dylan, 15, Natasha, 13, and Bethany, seven – who are being looked after by Alana’s fiancee Colin Sutherland while she stays in the hospital.

Alana said her daughter’s bravery had been an inspiration and that she had captured the hearts of the local community.

A fancy dress fundraising walk across the Forth Road Bridge earlier this month has raised more than £1000.

Anyone wishing to donate can do so at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/alana-miller.

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk