A 6-year-old British boy has been left unable to eat, sleep or talk after coming down with the flu, the Hull Daily Mail reports.
In February 2018, Blake Hostick, of Kingston upon Hull, was taken to the hospital after he began slurring his speech and couldn't support his own body weight. A doctor had previously diagnosed him with a virus, but the boy's condition deteriorated to the point where hospital staff had to put him in a medically induced coma for two weeks.
"We held onto hope while he was still in the coma, just waiting for him to open his eyes, we thought he might just be the same again," the boy's mother Kirsty recalled. "But then he did open his eyes, and there was nothing there. Absolutely nothing."
According to the Daily Mail, medics initially tested the child for multiple conditions, including meningitis, but the results were negative. They eventually determined that Blake, in fact, had acute necrotizing encephalopathy (ANE), an extremely rare disease that is characterized by a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection and can lead seizures and uneven bouts of consciousness. The illness has been mostly reported among Taiwanese and Japanese children.
"As soon as they showed us — I can't even describe it, it was shattering," Kirsty said. "We knew straight away what little chance there was of survival and, even if he did, how catastrophic the effects would be."
For five months, Blake stayed at a children's hospital before being transferred to a specialist rehabilitation center. His stepfather, Joseph, spent most days with him and reportedly lost his job after taking a long leave of absence.
"Just two years ago, Blake was a perfectly normal, healthy 4-year-old boy," Joseph said. "Now he's severely disabled — he can only take a few steps as long as we hold him up, he has most of his diet through a feeding tube, he can't speak. It's taken away everything from him."
About a third of people diagnosed with ANE do not survive, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly half of those who do are likely to have permanent brain damage, which, in turn, can result in impairments in speech, walking and "other basic functions."
"There's literally no prognosis, we've been told it's anybody's guess — those exact words," Joseph told the Daily Mail. "We've just battled and battled from when he was in his coma, to when they told us the worst could be real. You have to go on blind faith and we've never stopped. But awareness of it is absolutely key."
Blake's parents now take care of him full-time, the Daily Mail notes. But, in the months since he was first admitted to the hospital, he has made some progress — on one occasion, he was able to pedal on his special disability bike.
In an effort to make the necessary accommodations for their son, Kirsty and Joseph have set up a GoFundMe. As of Thursday afternoon, it had raised nearly $1,200 of its $64,000 goal.
"He needs a lot more support and with the support you give we believe we can get him talking, eating and communicating again," the page reads.