The Rachel Williams’ Story
For nearly the first two years of Rachel Williams’ life, she was like any other toddler who enjoyed playing with her older sisters and her friends at preschool. But, her life changed on June 7 — when she became paralyzed.
Rachel had enjoyed a family day at the lake and had just awakened from a nap when her mom, Melissa Williams, realized something was wrong.
“She came to me crying, and I tried to get her to stop crying and she calmed down,” Melissa Williams said. “But when I tried to give her a cup, I noticed that she couldn’t reach her Sippy cup to her mouth.”
At first, Melissa thought Rachel might have fallen and broken her arm or collarbone. When Melissa asked her to go see her father, Rachel could not walk straight. The Tuscaloosa family rushed her to the doctor, and it was while being waited on at the office that Rachel collapsed and could no longer stand. She was taken by ambulance to Children's of Alabama hospital in Birmingham, where she was diagnosed with hyper acute onset transverse myelitis, a neurological condition in which the spinal cord becomes inflamed and causes paralysis. Only one to five cases are diagnosed per million people each year.
Within hours, Rachel was completely paralyzed. Because her paralysis is from the chest down, she had to be put on a ventilator to help her breathe and was placed in the intensive care unit. Three months later, Rachel has gone through several different types of treatments, including chemotherapy.
Rachel, who spent her second birthday in the hospital, has made some progress. She can now talk through her tracheostomy tube and has some movement in her left fingers and some movement in her right arm. She is on the ventilator only at night and enjoys smiling and laughing with her three older sisters, even taking short trips outside the hospital in her wheel chair to enjoy a water fountain outside.
On weekends, her entire family moves into her hospital room, sleeping on the chair, the floor, wherever they can. Chris, Rachel's father, works weekends so that Melissa can stay by Rachel’s side at the hospital around the clock.
“It’s hilarious, to see a family of five sleeping in her room on the weekend,” Melissa said. “The girls just play with her, watch TV with her and play play dough with her, help her color and paint, and they put makeup on her — all of the normal girl stuff.”
Rachel loves being with her sisters, though, and is ready to come home. On the back of the hospital door, the family has a countdown until Rachel will be released from the hospital, which is currently scheduled for Sept.30. It’s perfect timing,Melissa said, since September is national spinal cord injury month.