OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A ten-year-old girl from East Contra Costa County is in the fight of her young life. A rare, but very dangerous disease has left her partially paralyzed, and launched her mother on a mission to warn parents about the ailment.
Samantha Winters of Knightsen has spent every holiday since Thanksgiving in the hospital, trying to regain the strength in her legs to walk and run like other ten-year-olds.
"It's just scary knowing you might not be able to walk again," Samantha says.
She has been stricken by a rare and mysterious ailment called Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM), it mainly strikes the young. It can cause paralysis in the limbs, and in the worst cases weaken the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.
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She was admitted to the hospital in late November when her legs went numb after a routine dental visit.
"I told my sister I felt like I couldn't breathe and she was going to take me outside and I stood up and just collapsed," said Samantha.
Her mom, Tisha Winters, first rushed her to a local emergency room which immediately transferred her to Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.
"By the time we got here a couple hours later, she couldn't even lift her right leg and her arms were just falling back in her face," Tisha said.
AFM affects the spinal cord in a way reminiscent of polio. Early symptoms mimic cold, leading researchers to believe it's caused by a virus. There is no cure.
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The only real treatment is physical therapy, round after round of it, trying to restore strength to the arms and legs.
Samantha does it every day except Sunday.
"We've trusted in the Lord in this whole thing, he's truly given me peace that she's going to be okay," Samantha says.
Samantha faces at least five to seven additional weeks in the hospital, and when she's released it will probably be in a wheelchair. But if Samantha has anything to say about it, she'll be walking out.
A Gofundme has been set up for the family to help with Samantha's medical costs, if you would like to donate click here.