A 3-year-old boy in Pennsylvania has been diagnosed with a dangerous and debilitating tick disease after his mother spotted the tick while swimming in a neighbor’s pool.
On June 15th, Johnny Simonon was invited to join his “neighborhood friend” at his pool. “Johnny never turns down a chance to go swimming, so here we go!” The baby’s mother, Jamie, reported this on her Facebook page.
While the boys are having fun, Jamie notices something behind her. “DANGEROUS tick,” he wrote. Given that Johnny’s older sister, Jessica, was diagnosed with Lyme disease three years ago, Mom became an expert at identifying the little critters.
“We successfully removed the embedded or stuffed tick and ended our day of swimming with some surprise S’mores,” Jamie said on Facebook of the seemingly uneventful day.
“A few days later there were no marks on her back; she just had a little red bump. That’s it,” Jamie added. The New York Post.
But two weeks later, Johnny’s daycare noticed he was acting different: “he’s cranky, has no appetite and has headaches,” Jamie wrote on Facebook.
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Over the next two days, the baby’s symptoms worsened. After taking him to the pediatrician, Johnny was started on medication, but woke up that night with a fever. The New York Post said. “We called the doctor the next morning and I said he was sleeping a lot and it really didn’t look like him,” Simonon said.
A few days later, Johnny’s fever rose to 104 degrees, and his family decided to take him to the hospital. His white blood cell count has reportedly increased to 30,000.
Bacterial and viral meningitis were later suspected because of neutrophils – a type of white blood cell that act as the immune system’s first responders – in her spinal fluid. But soon, the diagnoses were overturned.
After being transferred to a special children’s hospital, the doctors were still at a dead end. “It was very scary at the time,” Simonon said New York Post. “The search for answers was very frustrating. We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to come home with our baby.”
On the fifth day of Johnny’s unresponsiveness, after doctors performed an MRI and diagnosed meningoencephalitis, the answer finally came – an infection of both the brain and the thin tissue surrounding it. The New York Post said.
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After diagnosis, patients with antibody deficiency are treated with intravenous immunoglobulin at night. Amazingly, within 15 hours of his first dose, Johnny was awake and talking.
“It was amazing. For the first time since the situation began, my husband and I both broke down,” she told the company.
After spending 12 days in the hospital, Johnny finally recovered.
“Johnny still wasn’t walking, his balance was bad,” Simonon said New York Post. “We knew we had a lot of work to do, but we were up for the challenge.”
Three days after his recovery, Johnny tested positive for the rare and dangerous tick-borne Powassan virus. According to the CDC, from 2011 to 2020, there were only 194 cases of the virus in the United States.
Speaking to PEOPLE on Saturday, Jamie shared that Johnny is now “doing well and seems to be doing well.”
He added, “Because there are not many confirmed cases, we are concerned about what his future may be and the potential long-term effects, but we are generally pleased with his progress.” The proud mum also added that she’s been ‘being her crazy, fun self’ by taking up swimming.
“We’re dealing with some minor challenges, but we’re confident we’ve found enough resources to help us through them,” he told PEOPLE.
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Most of all, the family wants to raise awareness here for everyone, especially parents. “We want everyone to be aware of the real risks associated with tick-borne diseases and to be vigilant when it comes to prevention and recognizing symptoms,” he said. “One little mite could have taken our sweet boy from us. We are so blessed to be able to share his story.”
He added: “If it can reach just one person and help them get treatment sooner, everything we’ve been through will be worth it.” The family has created a Facebook page to spread the word and share Johnny’s recovery.