ZIKA HORROR! - Daughter contracted GBS but health officials claimed she was faking
Days after Joy's* nine-year-old daughter Becky* contracted the Zika virus in May, she woke up with no movement in her right side.
The sudden paralysis resulted in the working mother carrying her daughter around on her back to and from school for months, while some medical personnel initially charged that the child was faking the illness.
Up to the time the child was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) - a condition in which persons may present with acute onset of progressive paralysis - Joy said her daughter had not been tested for ZikV even though she requested the test when her daughter first presented with the rashes and itching over her body.
"The school called and said I should come and get her for she had rashes all over her body. I took her to the clinic and they misdiagnosed her and said it was food poisoning. They gave her a shot for food poisoning and said it would clear up in 24 hours.
"Four days later, she still had the rash. The following Monday, eight days after the rash appeared, she said 'Mommy, I can't feel my right side'," Joy told The Sunday Gleaner.
Becky's severe vomiting caused the worrying mother to rush to her daughter's primary school.
"I took her to the hospital. They said she had gastroenteritis. But that lasted the entire week. The numbness got worse. And then she stopped walking because she could not even stand. I waited for more than two hours without seeing anyone at the hospital, after which time I left because she was in pain all over her body. Then I took her to her paediatrician who referred me to hospital," said Joy.
According to Joy, when her daughter was admitted to hospital her worry turned to horror.
"I thought she had a stroke when she couldn't move her right side. When she was finally able to move, she began hopping around on her left foot, resulting in a slight sprain of the ankle," said Joy.
She charged that initially there was a downplaying of her daughter's illness at the hospital.
"They told me she was faking the paralysis and wanted her to see a psychiatrist. Then they said her demeanour and behaviour suggest she was being abused. Then they discharged her after two days, saying nothing was wrong with her.
"During the time she was in the hospital they gave her nothing more than Panadol for the pain, even while she could not walk or help herself," Joy charged. Then came the dreaded diagnosis that the child had GBS, which is one of the complications linked to the Zika virus.
Up to the start of this month, the Ministry of Health was reporting that there were 111 notifications for possible GBS. Twenty-two of those cases have been classified by the ministry as suspect while two persons with GBS have died.
Twenty cases have been classified as non-GBS, while 69 notifications were still under investigation.
According to the ministry, mortality associated with GBS varies by subpopulation, and an estimated five per cent of individuals diagnosed may die from complications despite receiving adequate care.
For Joy, there were prayers and tears for what she describes as her daughter's "miraculous recovery", although Becky still require specialist care.
"She missed a lot of school at a time when she was preparing for the Grade Four Literacy Test. When she was unable to walk, it was piggyback transportation. I had to carry her around to and from school.
"When I went to school the security guard would help me carry her up the stairs to the classroom, and she would remain there until I come to pick her up. This is after the hospital said she was faking the illness," said Joy.
"We lived on a lot of prayers. We lived with faith and prayers. We are a very feisty family and a very tight family. She is walking now. She actually auditioned for a part in a play and got it. It's not a sad story when it comes to Becky," said the exhausted mother.
* Names changed on request
Report on suspicion
As part of its overall surveillance of Zika and Zika-related effects, the Ministry of Health has indicated that all microcephaly, Guillain-Barre syndrome and neurological conditions that may be related to Zika virus infection are to be reported on suspicion as they may be related to Zika virus infection.
According to the ministry, Zika virus infection remains a Class 1 notifiable disease and all suspected cases are to be reported to the Parish Health Department or the National Surveillance Unit at the Ministry of Health.
This recommendation, which forms part of the clinical management and surveillance guidelines, was reiterated by the Expert Group on Children of Mothers with Suspected/Confirmed ZikV Infection at their second meeting last Wednesday.
According to Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton, "This is just one of the many recommendations that will be monitored by this expert group, and the expectation is that by the end of September 2016 the capacity of the public-health system will be increased to deal with babies born with microcephaly and other neurological disorders."