BLACKWELL, Okla. - While it's mostly been parents warned to watch out of a mysterious polio-like illness affecting children, adults are not immune. Now a 30-year-old man is showing the symptoms of Acute Flaccid Myelitis, and doctors haven't ruled it out.
Erik Keller has been taking it day-by-day since a terrifying morning nearly two weeks ago.
"I was sleeping, and I woke up and I couldn't move," Keller said.
He couldn't even speak for several minutes.
"It started with my tongue being numb, then my head would go numb, and it`s really hard to put out words," Keller said. He described the feeling as a waking night terror, saying it was an hour before he could start to move his fingers. When he was finally able to speak, he alerted his wife, but thinking it could just be a back issue, he didn't go to the hospital. Instead he laid in the bed barely able to move for eight hours.
But when Keller was feeling weak, even falling over the next day, he went to the ER. When those doctors couldn't diagnose him, his primary care doctor started running tests.
"Neurological problems can be really hard to diagnose or misdiagnose," Keller said. "She mentioned that with the polio-like sickness around, Acute Flaccid Myelitis, that it could be that."
Soon after, reports of a growing number of cases of AFM in the U.S. started getting attention, 62 identified so far this year. That number includes a case in Oklahoma. Most of the patients, including the Oklahoman, are children under 18.
"That`s when I started researching it and I found out that adults can get it as well," Keller said.
AFM affects the nervous system, and early symptoms could include slurred speech, and arm and leg weakness, and muscle loss. They're all symptoms Eric is contending with.
"Very weird feeling, not being able to feel something out of your body when you didn`t even have an accident or anything," Keller said.
Without knowing what it is, the only medication he can take treats pain generally.
"In my neck and head there`s a lot of pain," Keller said. "Really stiff, sharp pain."
As he awaits test results, Eric spends a lot of time with his movie collection, afraid to drive because the paralysis comes and goes.
"The worst part is not knowing when it's going to hit," he said.
Now he's hoping and praying that what seems to be getting worse will get better, and that he won't be the rare adult case of AFM.
Eric has been unable to work since his symptoms began, so his family has set up a GoFundMe account. Click here if you would like to help.