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Radiologist Saves Little Girl From Paralysis

December 3, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Pediatric Radiology
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Little Chloe Wash, just 2 years old, dashes around the house like any child her age, running and jumping, a blonde ball of energy.

Her parents still can’t believe it. Just a few weeks ago, her legs were paralyzed. Nobody knew why. Until a radiologist noticed something on a spine angiogram.

The day after Labor Day, Chloe began limping. Then she began dragging her leg as if it were asleep. Within days, she couldn’t walk. Her mother, Lena Wash, thought her daughter’s legs felt cold.

Her father, Drew Wash, told Cheryl Truman of the Lexington Herald-Leader that watching his child slip so quickly into paralysis “was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through in my entire life.” He had spent a year at home with Chloe, the youngest of his three daughters, while unemployed. (He and Lena are amicably separated.)

At first, doctors at UK HealthCare in Lexington, Kentucky, thought the girl might have Guillain-Barré Syndrome. A spinal tap and MRI ruled that out.

Abdulnasser Alhajeri, MD, was called in to consult about a spine MRA. Dr. Alhajeri, who was educated in Bahrain, had just started in August as an associate professor of radiology at the University of Kentucky. He noticed something in the midthoracic region.

Chloe, it turned out, had an arteriovenous fistula—two arteries joining a single vein, bypassing capillaries and depriving tissues of blood supply. The condition was congenital, but for unknown reasons it apparently didn’t bother her until her dramatic slide into paralysis.

After trying to figure out the least-invasive way of treating the condition, Dr. Alhajeri injected Onyx surgical glue into catheters in the fistula. He had performed a similar procedure, but only on an adult. He didn’t know whether it would work for little Chloe.

Two days later, Chloe was standing. Then she started walking. Five days after the surgery, on October 2, she was discharged from the hospital. She hasn’t slowed down since.

Dr. Alhajeri said her condition “is so rare that we don’t know how they recover.” But recover she did. He said he became a doctor to help people, but seldom has he witnessed, let alone brought about, something so seemingly miraculous.

As for Chloe, she doesn’t know it, but she’s a very lucky little girl. Years before she was born, a man halfway around the world began a long, arduous course of training that eventually resulted in saving her from a wheelchair. Just because he wanted to help people.

Related seminar: Pediatric Radiology—Clinical and Radiology Perspectives

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