Heartbreak as girl, 11, paralysed after rare condition saw her body's immune system attack her spine
The life of a brave 11-year-old girl has been ‘shattered’ after she was diagnosed with extremely rare condition that has left her paralysed from the chest down.
Malika Mawhinney was a sporty and active child before she was struck down by a rare condition.
The ‘feisty’ girl, who has trained in gymnastics since she was three, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis – a severe swelling of the spinal cord which is caused when the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the spine.
Devastatingly despite months of treatment including a plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin, Malika, from Washington, is paralysed from the chest down – she is able to use both of her arms but only has movement in her dominant left hand.
Her family are waiting to move into a home which can be adapted to meet the needs of the 11-year-old, who is currently sleeping in the family’s living room, and are raising funds to help with the move.
Mum Debbie Mawhinney said: "The diagnosis has shattered our family and Malika. Even though she has her down days and gets angry at what has happened she is still a very happy bubbly girl and can always make me smile.
"The biggest thing is that she has done sports her entire life. She’s been boxing for five years, doing gymnastics since she was three and she loves running.
“She has days where she gets really upset. She asks why did it happen to her and says she doesn’t want to be like this anymore.
"I’m so proud of how well she is adapting, I think she’s coping better than I would have.
"The house isn’t big enough and she can’t really move around.”
In March, Malika was rushed to Sunderland Royal Hospital after suffering a pain in her back and lost all feeling in her legs.
She was transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary for further scans but doctors couldn’t find the cause.
After a number of days and multiple transfers between the two hospitals, doctors found what they thought was a tumour on Malika’s spine before she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis – although it’s not known what caused it to develop.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, Malika spent more than four months in hospitals – with mum-of-four Debbie never leaving her side.
As a result of her the spinal injury, Malika also has autonomic dysreflexia, which could be potentially life-threatening.
Malika is recovering at home and is hoping to start secondary school in October – as teachers need to be specially trained.
"She gets a lot of spasms in her legs and tremors that she can’t control,” said Debbie. “All of the nerves in her legs are still working it’s the messages from her brain that can’t get there because of the spinal cord injury.
“It normally lasts a few minutes but it’s lasted for hours before and it really gets her down.
"She asked the doctor if they could chop her legs off one day. It was heartbreaking.”
The family set up a Go Fund Me page asking for donations to help for the cost of moving and for household items.