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Child suffers temporary paralysis from tick bite

A two-year-old girl from Williams Lake, Izzy Grady, suffered temporary paralysis prior to a tick being discovered behind one of her ears. - Monica Lamb-Yorski photo
A two-year-old girl from Williams Lake, Izzy Grady, suffered temporary paralysis prior to a tick being discovered behind one of her ears.
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

A two-year-old girl from Williams Lake is recovering at home after being paralyzed by a wood tick recently.

Izzy’s mom and dad, Tera and Ryan Grady, are warning parents to check for ticks if a child starts to show weakness in the legs.

By the time Tera found a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick embedded above Izzy’s ear, she couldn’t move her head, swallow or cough, and was about to be put on a respirator at the hospital.

The Gradys were enjoying a family ski vacation in Whistler during the Easter weekend when on Monday morning Izzy suddenly couldn’t walk.

Tera and Ryan brought her into the emergency ward in Whistler and were referred to a pediatrician at Lion’s Gate Hospital in Vancouver.

Izzy didn’t have a fever, a rash or any aches and pains, and the doctors did not know what to test for, Tera said.

“I don’t think they see ticks there much so they didn’t think of that.”

By the next morning, back in Whistler, Izzy had no fine motor skills in her hands.

The Gradys returned to the emergency ward at the Whistler Hospital and were referred to a neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

“Four neurologists examined her,” Tera said.

Because the doctors couldn’t find reflexes in any of Izzy’s limbs they decided to test her for Guillaine-Barre Syndrome — a disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves.

Izzy would need a spinal tap and an MRI the doctors said.

While they were preparing for the MRI, Tera happened to put her hand on her daughter’s head.

That’s when she felt something crusty.

She pulled back Izzy’s blonde hair and discovered the tick. It was in the third stage of feasting, and was also a blonde colour. The ticks are first black, then red, then blonde and finally silver. They will then drop off to go looking for a mate.

Immediately the tick was removed.

During the first 24 hours, Izzy’s condition worsened and she became more of a “wet noodle” and “rag doll.”

But within 48 hours she showed signs of improvement and less than a week later Izzy was working with her dad in the backyard, feeling totally back to normal.

Ryan said Izzy might have picked up the tick while walking the power line above their home in Williams Lake a few days before they left for Whistler.

Ticks use deer as a winter host, so when the snow melts they drop off the deer. Ticks are rarely in their backyard, Ryan added.

Human cases of tick paralysis are rare and only occur in children under 10.

The Rocky Mountain wood tick saliva contains a neurotoxin that can occasionally cause tick paralysis in humans and pets; usually a bite from an adult female induces an ascending paralysis that dissipates within 24 to 72 hours after tick removal.

Dr. Glen Fedor of Williams Lake said the Cariboo Memorial Hospital sees one case of tick paralysis every few years.

“In tick season the nurses are very good at recognizing the signs of tick paralysis,” Fedor said.

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