Averey Mell, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was rushed to the hospital earlier this month after she collapsed in her home.
"I fell face first into the bathroom," the five-year-old told WXIX.
Doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital were initially baffled by Avery's condition. She was unable to feed herself and eventually started having trouble breathing on her own.
After Avery was moved to the ICU, her mother, Sami Mell, found two Dogwood ticks — each the size of a quarter — on her head behind her ear.
"When we got to ICU I noticed a lump in her hair. It was a tick," Mell wrote in a Facebook post describing the ordeal. "I searched her and found another at the back of her head in [the] neckline."
Doctors diagnosed Avery with tick paralysis, a rare disease caused by only five tick species found in North America. The condition is fatal in about 12 percent of untreated cases.
Symptoms of tick paralysis include fatigue, muscle pains and numbness, which rapidly spreads through the body and can eventually lead to respiratory failure.
"She couldn’t feed herself, she got to the point where she couldn’t breathe on her own," Mell told WXIX. "They were prepared for her lungs not to work on her own."
Mell's Facebook post said Avery was choking on her own saliva and had to have a breathing tube placed down her throat. The family said doctors were shocked by the young girl's condition.
"The infectious disease doctor of 30 years said he’s never seen nothing like it," Dave Goslin, Averey’s grandfather, told WXIX.
It's unclear exactly how rare tick paralysis is, but another case was reported in Colorado this June. In that instance, a 7-year-old girl fell ill after being bitten by ticks at an overnight camp.
The girl was taken to the hospital for treatment, and made a full recovery, according to a post on her mother's Facebook page.