Fairy Tale Happy Ending to Medical Battle
Willow Creek Girl Travels to Disney World to Celebrate Her Recovery
By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune
A long, rough journey for Willow Creek girl, Precious Reynolds, has taken a fairy-tale twist, complete with a week-long stay at Walt Disney World in Florida.
Given a three percent chance at life by doctors in May, the eight-year-old girl defied the odds stacked against her by the rabies virus. Precious is the eighth person in the world and the third in the U.S. to have survived the virus without a vaccine. She’s what doctors call a medical phenomenon. With a name to match the girl’s spirit—precious—it’s difficult to imagine her anything but healthy.
The spirited, blue-eyed beauty wrestles freestyle on the Willow Creek team, loves to swim, ride horses, and mutton bust on the local rodeo circuit.
Her journey began last April when she came down with flu-like symptoms, minus the fever. Sick to her stomach one evening her grandfather, Jack Roby, took her to Six Rivers Medical Center the following morning. There, she was referred to
Mad River Community Hospital to rule out appendicitis.
“They sent us home saying she had the flu,” Roby said. That evening the condition worsened. “She lost all motor movement and collapsed. She lost consciousness.”
Roby and his wife Shirlee, Precious’ grandmother, took her back to Mad River where she was put on full life support and flown to U.C. Davis for medical treatment. For what? The doctors were not exactly sure. She was paralyzed, unable to move her arms and legs, or swallow. After three life-threatening days, a doctor who specializes in human and animal medicine discovered Precious was battling a deadly virus that attacks the neurological system—rabies.
“Later, I spoke with the doctor who saw her at Mad River. He apologized and said the news could have knocked him over with a feather,” Jack Roby said. “He just didn’t know.”
Because the virus is rarely contracted by humans, due to heavy campaigns nationwide, and state laws requiring domestic animals to be vaccinated, it was not on the radar screen of medical professionals in Precious’ case. Worldwide only about 50,000 people contract the virus each year, with most cases originating with dog bites.
The risk of human to human contraction of the virus is even smaller. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the only well-documented cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus occurred in eight cornea transplants and three organ transplant recipients.
Shirlee Roby believes precious contracted the virus from a feral cat near Trinity Valley Elementary School. Despite Shirlee’s warnings to stay away from the cats, 8 year-old girls go goo-goo for kitties. Later, Precious revealed that she was scratched by one of the feral cats.
“It’s nothing like you see in the movies where somebody gets bitten, starts acting crazy, then goes to the doctor,” Jack Roby said. “If you wait until you start showing symptoms, it’s too late.”
According to the California Department of Public Health rabies can lay dormant in the human system for up to six years after contact with an infected animal, but in most cases, symptoms occur between 30 and 90 days after exposure to the virus. The CDC urges people to seek medical attention as early as possible.
Shirlee and Jack Roby want people to encourage their children to tell them when scratched or bitten by an animal. “Parents need to talk to their kids. If they get bit, they need to tell their parents regardless of how minor the incident, or whether or not they think they’re going to get into trouble,” Shirlee said. “This is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody, not even my worst enemy.”
After 53 painstaking days riding the rollercoaster of hope and reality at U.C. Davis Medical, Precious came home as good as new. Aside from a slight limp in her left leg, she has made a full recovery. The nerve damage in her leg is expected to repair itself with the help of physical therapy.
“The medical staff at the hospital kept trying to prepare us for the worst,” Shirlee said. “At one point I just said, you know what! The only thing allowed in this room is positive thinking. If you can’t have a positive attitude we don’t want you here.”
After it was clear that only positive thoughts were allowed, and a pouch of medicine was sent from a medicine man, George Walking Bear, the tables turned for the better.
A couple of Precious’ nurses at U.C. Davis decided to notify the Make A Wish Foundation. Locals Dennis and Diane Dorion organized the details of the trip. After all, Precious’ wish for life had been granted, so why not her wish to visit Disney World?
Make a Wish is a 30-year-old international foundation that grants wishes to children facing life threatening illnesses giving hope, strength, and joy to children who face insurmountable odds.
On Nov. 16 a limousine picked up Precious and her family and drove them to the airport—destination Orlando, Florida.
They arrived at their villa around midnight where a fulll course dinner awaited them along with a welcome gifts for each of the children.
“It was like a true fantasyland,” Jack Roby said. “It was a really special experience for all of us.”
And for Precious, who now has her name forever engraved onto a gold star on the ceiling of the Harry Potter Castle, it was truly magical. She loved the thrill of the roller coasters most, and Sea World where she came close to swimming with the dolphins.