After thinking she had a typical childhood virus, Sophie Carter, 7 ½, woke up on a Saturday morning in February paralyzed from the waist down and has since received great support from the community, including a GoFundMe account, to help pay for medical bills.
Sophie’s parents, Josh and April Carter, explained that Sophie originally became sick in February.
“She had a few bad infections,” said April, as she recalled Sophie having a stomach virus and fevers. “The doctors treated her for pneumonia, though they couldn’t tell if it was bacterial or viral.
April explained that she picked Sophie up from The North Carolina Leadership Academy (NCLA), where Sophie attends school, and felt that she still had a fever, after she had already finished a round of antibiotics.
“I picked her up from school and she had a fever of 103. The next morning was Good Friday, so I had to take her to Urgent Care, where they checked her for the flu. They said they just thought she had a virus and sent her home,” she said. “She walked in and walked out. Then, on Saturday morning, she was paralyzed from the waist down. My husband picked her up to take her to Brenner (Children’s Hospital) and her legs just dangled in the air.”
April explained that once at Brenner Children’s Hospital, doctors examined Sophie, conducted an MRI of her spine, did a spinal tap and drew blood.
“They told us they were trying to stop whatever was happening,” she said.
“They told us that they were trying rule out Gillham Barre Syndrome verse Transverse Myelitis. However, after doing an MRI of her brain, they noticed lesions on her brain, which noted she had Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM). The ADEM caused her body to fight against its own immune system, which caused severe swelling all the way up to her spine and caused the lesions on her brain,” she said.
From there, Sophie underwent 10 days of steroid and plasma therapy, before being transferred to Levine Children’s Hospital, where she has been undergoing weeks of intensive rehabilitation.
One month after starting her treatments, Sophie’s lesions are almost gone.
“The lesions are mild and most of the swelling in her spine is gone, but because of the swelling on her Myelin Sheath, her brain can’t send the signals to tell her legs to move,” April explained. “Only time will tell after her body heals what she will be able to do.”
Although she is still unable to walk, April said Sophie has some movement in her lower legs.
“I don’t think she can feel temperatures yet, but she is starting to get feeling back. She cannot walk yet. She just actually just started moving her toes about two weeks ago in her right foot. She can move the bottom part of her lower leg if we take away gravity,” she said, noting that started on Thursday. “But, that’s how it all begins, so she is making progress. It’s just going to take time.”
As part of her therapy, Sophie has to do various exercises every day including stretching, core strengthening four times each day, aquatics therapy, outpatient physical and occupational therapy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, as well as using functional electrical stimulation, which is done through something called a MOTOmed, with one of the closest locations offering it in Mooresville.
April said Sophie has to wear stints on her feet at night, and they also have a Stander at their home that keeps her weight bearing around her hips to ensure that her muscles continue to develop.
“We are doing all of the physical therapy we can, and you have to keep on top of it. If we don’t she won’t move forward,” April said. “This is the best chance we have to maximize her chances to get back to her previous function.”
For having gone through as much as she has, April said Sophie is doing really well.
“It’s an adjustment because she was very active. She was an ice skater and had just started playing soccer. We belong to a community pool and we love swimming and going to the park. We are a very outdoor family and are always on the go,” she said. “I think she is handling it really well. There are days that she gets down, but we have faith and we pray. That helps us get through it.”
While insurance has helped to cover much of Sophie’s medical bills, it doesn’t cover everything, such as physical or aquatic therapy.
Thankfully, Sophie and her family have had help from family and friends at Sedge Garden United Methodist Church and preschool, where Sophie attended and where her brother, Brodie, currently attends, as well as The NCLA.
“I don’t think we could make it without them. All the prayers and support from everybody, I think has gotten us through it,” she said.
In honor of Sophie, Sedge Garden UMC Preschool is raising money through a school walk.
“Ever since Sophie was at the school, they have had the Walk for Life. They do a 30-minute walk around their parking lot and cemetery and dedicate it to different people,” she said, noting that one of the preschool teachers contacted her and said they wanted to do the walk this year in honor of Sophie and raise money. This year’s walk is entitled, “Sophie’s Super Hero Walk.”
Also, Sophie’s fellow students at The NCLA are working hard to let her know they are thinking of her. The school’s Girl Scout Troop 02817 sent her a care package and fourth grader Shaun Kawalec created a coloring book featuring various animals and bugs, which is being sold for $5 at the front office at The NCLA to support Sophie.
To contact The NCLA, call 336-992-2710. The school is located at 4353 High Point Rd.
There has also been a GoFundMe account set up for Sophie to help pay for medical bills. To help support Sophie, visit www.gofundme.com/vhxxwzvs.
“We want to thank everyone for all of their prayers and support. We can never express how much that has meant to our family,” April said.