CHICAGO (FOX 32 NEWS) - A polio-like virus impacting hundreds of children across the country is on the rise.
A local family was on the frontlines when the illness started making headlines four years ago.
Laura Carson was just 4 years old when her life changed forever.
“She loved to dance, she loved everything girly,” Laura’s mom, Sara Carson, said.
One day, the happy, active girl suddenly became tired and weak.
“She looked at me and said ‘mom, why are there two of you?’ And so at that point, my heart dropped,” Sara Carson said.
She rushed her daughter Laura to the emergency room where her condition stunned doctors.
“They couldn't look at me and say that my daughter was going to be OK. They couldn't look at me and say, ‘this is what's happening,’” Sara Carson said.
That was 2014, when mysterious cases like Laura's started to rise.
She was diagnosed with a polio-like illness called Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM). The effects were staggering.
“It reminded me of a limp rag doll. She had deteriorated overnight,” Sara Carson said. “You felt like your whole world was crumbling, you didn't know. You turn to the doctors, who've never seen it before, and they were amazing doctors. They did anything that they could.
Sara said her daughter spent more than 20 days in the hospital and the family was left with more questions than answers.
“That was my prayer, over and over, ‘please don't take her yet,’” Sara Carson said.
Even today, the Centers for Disease Control doesn't know why or how AFM happens, even though hundreds of children have been diagnosed in just the last few years.
And there's now known cure.
But for the Carson family - there's hope.
The girl who once couldn't walk is now thriving as a third-grader. Though she admits, it's not always easy.
“I can't do as much stuff as other kids, but I find some way. It's a lot harder though,” Laura Carson said.
Both Laura and Sara wanted to share their story to inspire other families to keep going.
And for the medical community to keep researching this puzzling disease.
“You can find a way, you just have to think really hard, and work really hard,” Laura said.