New surgery allows child with polio-like illness AFM to walk again

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ST. LOUIS (CBS) Brian Noblitt says it only took one week for his son Brandon's health to deteriorate in 2016.

"Tuesday into Wednesday cold-like symptoms. As the week progressed... had a headache and neck pain," Noblitt said.

Days later, Brandon couldn't use his legs to get out of bed.

"I knew then something was very wrong," Noblitt said.

A doctor diagnosed Brandon with acute flaccid Myelitis or AFM. Brandon, now 8, was wheelchair-bound.

"While all your friends are running around and playing, it's hard to just sit in the bed and do nothing," he said.

The family eventually turned to Dr. Amy Moore of Washington University in St. Louis.

"My goal with the children with AFM was to restore hip stability and then motion of the upper legs," Moore said.

Moore says she's the only doctor in the U.S. to perform nerve transfers on children's lower extremities.

"I was able to move a nerve that wiggles the toes to the hips," Moore said.

Fourteen months ago, Moore performed the nerve transfer surgery on Brandon's leg at St. Louis Children's Hospital. During Friday's checkup, Brandon said now he only uses his wheelchair to play basketball.

"It's been amazing," he said. "Thanks to Ms. Doctor Moore, I can go outside, play with my brothers."

While the CDC tries to pinpoint the cause, Moore is working to help those affected.

"My intention is to give these families hope that there are options for their child if they get this horrible diagnosis," Moore said.

Brandon says that horrible diagnosis brought him new basketball friends and inspired him to one day pursue a career in medicine.

According to Moore, children typically respond best to this type of nerve transfer surgery because their nerves grow back faster and it's most successful within nine months of diagnosis.