One-year-old Joleigh Babineaux went from running around and playing with her sister to being lethargic and no longer walking independently within a few short weeks. Her mother knew something was wrong and was determined to find answers.
“In November 2021, Joleigh came down with a stomach bug,” said her mother, Toi Babineaux. “She also began to wake up screaming in the middle of the night. At daycare, she wasn’t her usual, active self. She would just lie around. A few days later, Joleigh started holding on to furniture to walk, although she had been previously walking on her own.”
Toi took Joleigh to her pediatrician, as well as, to urgent care clinics when Joleigh’s symptoms continued to worsen. She was told that Joleigh was still having stomach issues and sent back home. But Toi felt there was more to her daughter’s illness and continued to make medical appointments in an effort to get answers.
“In early December 2021, I took her to a Houston-area emergency room,” said Toi. “I was determined to get her additional testing. My daughter was crying in pain at that point, and they had to give her morphine to calm her down. She was admitted and had a series of tests and various medical consultants were brought in to try to determine what was going on.”
One of the consulting physicians was Dr. Shadé Moody, assistant professor at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and pediatric neurologist affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Dr. Moody was ultimately able to diagnose Joleigh with Guillain-Barré syndrome. Dr. Moody then referred Joleigh to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital for treatment.
“It was so hard, she had regressed to being like an infant,” said Toi. “At that point, the paralysis from Guillain-Barré had left Joleigh unable to hold up her head or eat solid food. We weren’t sure how her recovery would go. I even began researching wheelchairs for her.”
“At Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital – I may see Guillain-Barré syndrome pediatric patients eight to 10 times a year, but that is because we are in a large medical center and many patients are referred to us,” said Dr. Moody. “Other institutions may see a pediatric patient with Guillain-Barré syndrome only once or twice a year. For treatment, Joleigh had a 5-day course of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) treatment. This essentially means we gave her good antibodies to attack the bad antibodies. We saw some improvements fairly quickly and her next steps were to begin rehabilitation to try to regain the mobility she lost.”
After 9 days at Children’s Memorial Hermann, Joleigh transitioned to TIRR Memorial Hermann’s inpatient pediatric unit to begin her rehabilitation, under the care of Dr. Stacey Hall, a clinical assistant professor of pediatric rehabilitation medicine at McGovern Medical School and Medical Director of Pediatric Rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
“Guillain-Barré is an illness that essentially paralyzes you and it is typically preceded by a viral infection,” said Dr. Hall. “We do believe that Joleigh had a preceding gastroenteritis that may have triggered it. Guillain-Barré is very rare in kids under age 2. Joleigh actually had a more severe form of the illness because it affected the axons of her nerves and not just the covering, or myelin, of the nerves.”
Dr. Hall adds that when she first met Joleigh, the toddler was very impaired. She said, “Joleigh was very quadriparetic, or weak all over, and had difficulty with swallowing. She also had difficulty with lifting her arms and legs up from the bed and she had significant neuropathic pain related to her Guillain-Barré.”
To help her progress, her physical therapists focused on embedding standing activities and gross motor skills into play activities with Joleigh’s preferred toys – particularly musical instruments and cause-and-effect toys.
“Through engagement with her preferred toys, Joleigh was motivated to stand and move,” said her TIRR Memorial Hermann physical therapist, Emily Furl, PT, DPT. “All of Joleigh’s play was focused on global functional strengthening including sit/stands, getting up/down from the ground, playing on her hands, and walking. While she initially needed lots of help, she gained strength through doing these activities because she was putting body weight through her arms and legs. By the time Joleigh left the inpatient rehabilitation unit, she was standing and taking steps independently!”
Joleigh worked with a speech language pathologist to address her speech and language delays, as well as concerns about her aspirating when she tried to swallow food and drink.
“She was young, so we had to get creative with our approaches,” said her TIRR Memorial Hermann speech language pathologist Sabrina Casso Filoteo, MA, CCC-SLP. “We utilized a technique called the Shaker or Head Lift to improve her swallowing. We would lay her down in her chair and place a video at her feet so that she had to slightly elevate her head on her own to see it. Doing that repeatedly helped improve her airway protection when swallowing. She also progressed well with language stimulation activities, allowing her to independently express needs and wants using one-to-three word utterances at time of discharge.”
Joleigh’s parents were delighted with the progress she made as an inpatient.
“We got to TIRR Memorial Hermann on Dec. 17 and by Dec. 25 Joleigh was standing!” said Toi. “A few days later she was taking steps and, by early January, she was walking and eating solid food again. I was so impressed – all of her therapists communicated with each other and the level of care Joleigh received was phenomenal.”
Joleigh was discharged home in January 2022 and scheduled to have outpatient rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Rehabilitation at the Kirby Glen Center.
“I am thrilled with Joleigh’s recovery and the care she received at Children’s Memorial Hermann and TIRR Memorial Hermann,” said Toi. “The time she spent at Children’s Memorial Hermann receiving treatment was challenging; they had to manage Joleigh’s rising blood pressure from the Guillain-Barré treatment in addition to her anxiety of being in the hospital. Both hospitals made sure Joleigh was comfortable with her care team.”
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