Milwaukee man slowly recovering from rare illness similar to polio

Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 10, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee man has been diagnosed with a rare illness that leaves him paralyzed from the waist up. 

30-year-old Adam Spoerri has the only CDC-confirmed case of Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) this year in Wisconsin. However, the debilitating illness has seen a recent uptick in cases across the nation. 

Through September of this year, 38 people in 16 states have been diagnosed with AFM. Spoerri's case is especially rare because the illness is most common among children. 

It's been more than two months since Spoerri was admitted to the hospital. On day 67, he's still unable to eat, speak or even breathe on his own. 

"The beginning was really hard because we didn't know what it was and he just got sicker progressively over the course of a couple days," said Adam's wife Bridget who has witnessed each day by his side. "I thought he was going to die." 

The couple went from the highest of highs this summer to the lowest of lows. 

"We got married on July 21, of this year and the wedding was perfect," Spoerri said. 

Spoerri said Adam developed a minor illness on their honeymoon. 

"At the end of his cold, he got worse and not better," she said. 

Spoerri is paralyzed from the waist up and is on a ventilator. He's been diagnosed with AFM, a rare disease, especially for adults. 

"The spinal cord becomes dysfunctional, the muscles don't work properly and muscles and breathing don't work properly," said Dr. Ted Gronski at Post Acute Medical Specialty Hospital of Milwaukee.

Gronski said it's still unclear as to why AFM is more common among children.  The reason as to why there have been so many recent cases across the nation remains a mystery as well. 

"If someone has symptoms of a cold it's probably nothing to get excited about, but if someone has symptoms of weakness, tingling in an arm ... that should send up a bell that this is something different now," Gronski said. 

The Spoerris are now left celebrating small wins, like being able to move his arm with help. They hope he'll be able to go home for the holidays. If you would like to help the couple during this difficult time, click here