Suddenly Paralyzed: Rhana's Story - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Suddenly Paralyzed: Rhana's Story

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By Abbey Niezgoda

aniezgoda@abc6.com

To really get to know Rhana Fleming, you have to watch her how-to gymnastics videos, where the Charlestown 12-year-old teachers her YouTube audience how to master handstands and cartwheels.

But her world turned upside down when her parents got the call that day in December.

"We got a call from the gym that she was sick," her father Robert Fleming said. "We didn't really know how sick. We didn't really think it was catastrophic sick."

Roughly four hour hours after that, Rhana was at Hasbro Children's Hospital, paralyzed from the neck down.

"I said was there an accident? Did she fall? And they said no, we were just doing warm-ups," her mother Cheryl Fleming said.

It was a sudden, violent nerve reaction in Rhana's spine that doctors call Transverse Myelitis.

Rhana's been in the ICU for 25 days. Cameras are not allowed inside, but her father shows ABC6 cell phone videos of Rhana mouthing 'I love you.' The tube makes it tough for her talk, especially because she is still in excruciating pain.

Doctors see roughly 30 cases like Rhana's in Rhode Island each year; however, 90% of them respond to what is called aggressive intervention. Rhana is part of the 10% that, so far, has not.

"We just don't understand the process well enough to handle it," Dr. David Mandelbaum, head of the Neurological Unit at Hasbro, said. "90% of the time we do, but with that 10%, there is just so much unknown."

They still do not know if Rhana will ever walk again. They are trying to figure out whether or not any of this may be the result of her immune system over-reacting to an infection that had already passed.

But instead of harping on the unknown, Rhana's parents are being pro-active, setting up a website to raise money for her care: http://www.rhanasjourney.com/

They are staying focused on their little girl's spirit because even in the hospital bed, she has made them laugh out loud at her jokes and quietly cry at her selflessness. They realize now more than ever that their little gymnastics teacher has a whole lot to teach them about life.

 

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