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Milwaukee man diagnosed with rare, polio-like illness shares recovery story for first time

Posted at 5:09 PM, Apr 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-23 19:57:08-04

A Milwaukee man diagnosed with a rare, polio-like disorder continues to recover more than eight months after an illness left him paralyzed.

For several months, Adam Spoerri was stuck in a hospital bed with a rare illness called A.F.M. He was unable to move, eat, speak or even breathe on his own. Now he's back home making huge strides toward becoming fully functional on his own.

"I'm off the (ventilator) and my trachea is capped, which allows me to talk," Adam said.

Adam said it's been a slow and tedious process with small improvements every day.

"Breathing still isn't easy, but I can do it," he said.

Feeling those improvements often come with a smile for the 31-year-old whose unimaginable journey to recovery has been riddled with difficulties.

"There were definitely times where we weren't sure that we were ever going to get better," he said.

Last July, the Spoerris celebrated their wedding, followed by a honeymoon when Adam developed what he thought was a minor illness.

"It presents as a simple chest cold, and that's what we both had before this happened," he said.

Adam was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with Acute Flaccid Myelitis, a polio-like illness that mainly affects children. The rare disease left him paralyzed from the waist up in need of a ventilator to breathe.

"It's rare enough or not well known enough that even the doctors often don't quite know what to do with you," Adam said.

After months of daily rehab and physical therapy, Adam has regained the strength to do things most people take for granted, like petting his dog and walking without assistance. Those small victories for Adam bring tears of joy for his wife, who has been there for every moment.

"It's rare enough or not well known enough that even the doctors often don't quite know what to do with you." — Adam Spoerri

"If our roles were reversed, I wouldn't have been able to do what he did," said Bridget Spoerri. "He's very even-tempered and doesn't get frustrated often. So he was able to handle everything thrown at him."

Just this month, a researcher at the University of Minnesota confirmed the virus that develops into A.F.M. Enterovirus D68 causes the spinal cord to become dysfunctional.