The infection attacked Morgan Larance “like a termite,” her mother said, leaving behind tiny cavities along her brain stem and spinal cord. It knocked her unconscious for nine days in January and left her motionless for weeks.
More than four months later, Morgan, 15, is back home.
She left Cook Children’s Medical Center on Monday, walking out the front door with the help of her father.
A limousine picked up her and her family and a small group of friends and drove them home to Bryson, a tiny town between Graham and Jacksboro, about 80 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
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It was Morgan’s first time out of the hospital since Jan. 20, when her mother found her unconscious on a couch at their home.
Morgan had been home sick from school with a 104-degree fever and the flu. At Cook Children’s, an MRI revealed that her condition had developed into something much worse: acute necrotizing encephalopathy, a brain infection that can be triggered by the flu, said Dr. Mark Shelton, an infectious-diseases specialist who treated Morgan.
The condition is rare. Shelton said Cook Children’s had treated only one other case in the last two years.
And it’s relatively new, having been recognized in the 1990s by a doctor in Japan, according to an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. The disease’s hallmark, the article said, is lesions that infect the brain symmetrically.
“They weren’t expecting her to make it,” Morgan’s mother, Jennifer Kimbro, told the Star-Telegram in February.
At the time, Morgan’s condition had improved but her prognosis was still unknown.
The encephalopathy had lessened, doctors determined, and she had been moved from intensive care to a private room. She had started therapy, but only enough to sit up in a chair.
But her progress remained steady, and her mom shared each step on Facebook.
By March, she was standing, and by April, she was walking with a walker. She had undergone a tracheotomy, so another milestone was breathing on her own.
The updates chronicled the good and the bad. One day in early May Morgan lost her balance during therapy and went back to her room and broke down in tears, Kimbro posted.
“It’s hard and it gets to me,” Morgan said Monday. “There were times I felt like like, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ But other than that, I don’t feel like I was going down. I was always going up.”
Along the way, she had plenty of support. Kimbro prayed by her side daily, putting her trust in a Bible verse from book of Exodus: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Back in Bryson, her friends spread word on social media with #Pray4Mo and made T-shirts and bracelets with the same message. On Monday, her supporters lined the street as a fire truck escorted her back into town.
“I just miss my normal life,” Morgan said, “being able to be home and see my friends and go places. I just miss it so much ... I’m just ready to see all my friends and sleep in my own bed.”
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.