East Bay girl nearly paralyzed by rare disease released from hospital

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It was just before Thanksgiving when Sami Winters first arrived by ambulance to Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland.

More than 80 days later, she's finally going home.

The 10-year-old girl from East Contra Costa County has spent the past 12 weeks battling a rare, mysterious illness that left her partially paralyzed.

"Five weeks ago, barely wiggling toes to walking with her walker," Sami's mom Tisha Winters told ABC7 News. "It's been exciting."

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It began in November after a routine dental appointment. Sami felt ill and began to lose control of her limbs. She was rushed to a local emergency room and then to the hospital where doctors diagnosed her with Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM).

"It causes nerve damage, so basically a virus attacked her spine and then caused nerve damage that then affects the muscles," Tisha said.

Sami has been doing physical therapy six days a week and doctors believe she'll soon walk on her own again. But Sami's parents want to raise awareness for the illness. They know not everyone is so lucky.

"There's a lot of people paralyzed from the neck down," Tisha said. "We're fortunate for her. Very, very fortunate."

Sami still has months of hard work ahead and is on the waiting list for a physical therapy treatment facility in Maryland. But as she walked out of the hospital on Tuesday, the words on her shirt -- "You Got This Girl" -- said it all.

"You never really say, 'Oh, I'm thankful for my arms, or my legs, or my hands,'" Sami said. "But when it actually happens you realize need them now."

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The events have forever changed the Winters family.

"We all maybe kind of say it sometimes, but life can change in an instance," Sami's dad Sam Winters added. "Just cherish what you have. Cherish every day."

For Sami, she just wants to get back to normal. That means hugging her dogs, and one more thing.

"I want to go to Taco Bell," she said with a smile. "Nacho fries."
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