11-year old Windsor girl battles rare brain illness brought on by H1N1

Parents of a young girl in Windsor are warning others after their daughter was suddenly diagnosed with a rare life-threatening illness.

Amanda Casey and Goran Salamunec say their 11-year-old daughter Abby went from being healthy, with no medical issues, to a child fighting for her life, in a matter of hours.

In early November 2022, Abby developed flu-like symptoms.

“She said ‘mom, something’s wrong. Like am I going to die?’” her mother Amanda recalled.

After her conditions got worse, her parents called an ambulance. Casey and Salamunec say the paramedics told them Abby likely had the flu and suggested they rest her at home to avoid the busy hospital waiting room.

“They suggested keeping her comfortable at home and piggybacking with Tylenol and Advil,” said Casey.

11-year-old Abby (pictured) went from being healthy to a child fighting for her life, in a matter of hours, her parents say. (Courtesy: Goran Salamunec)

That night, her parents tucked Abby into bed, but soon after they realized something was wrong.

“Goran set his alarm for three hours later to wake her up to give her more Tylenol. At that point, he was unable to wake her up,” said Casey. “You could tell she had a seizure and was unresponsive.”

Abby was rushed to the local hospital and then airlifted to the Children’s Hospital in London, where she remains in a vegetative state.

“She will move her eyes when you talk to her, she will squeeze your hand. We believe she’s still in there,” said Casey.

Abby was initially on a ventilator but has since been able to breathe on her own. However, pneumonia and a staph infection have slowed her recovery.

After numerous tests, Abby was diagnosed with Acute Necrotizing Encephalopathy of Childhood, a rare life-threatening brain disease.

“She’s literally one in a million, is what they’ve said to us,” said Casey.

Casey says genetic testing ruled out hereditary factors for the disease. Her parents say doctors believe the brain illness was brought on by H1N1.

Her parents don’t know where Abby could have caught H1N1 in Windsor.

11-year-old Abby (pictured) went from being healthy to a child fighting for her life, in a matter of hours, her parents say. (Courtesy: Goran Salamunec)

“We have no idea and that’s been a hard thing to deal with. The only place she had went that week was school,” Casey explained.

According to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, there are several circulating subtypes of influenza A and B in the region. H1N1 is a type of influenza A virus.

According to the weekly influenza bulletin, there are five cases in Windsor-Essex.

Through the confusion and chaos, Abby’s parents have found comfort in what they call “Abby’s Army.” It’s a growing group of community members who have been praying and raising money for the family.

A Go Fund Me Page for the family has raised over $23,000.

“It’s honestly overwhelming, the support. It gives us strength, to give her strength. But she is the one who really gives us the strength, in the way she battles,” said Salamunec.

Reflecting on the experience, Abby’s parents want to advise others to take their child’s flu-like symptoms seriously and don’t hesitate to take action.

11-year-old Abby (pictured) went from being healthy to a child fighting for her life, in a matter of hours, her parents say. (Courtesy: Goran Salamunec)

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