22-Year-Old Nurse Mysteriously Paralyzed After COVID-19 Recovery

Desmon Silva

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A 22-year-old Florida nurse thought he recovered from COVID-19 only to mysteriously end up with a viral infection that has left him paralyzed from the neck down a couple of months later. He has now been flown to Neuro ICU at Mass General in Boston where he is on a ventilator and is using his eyes — blinking — to communicate, along with facial expressions, according to Boston25 News.

Silva’s mother, Barbara Bonnet, told Boston25 News that the doctors believe the paralysis was triggered by a viral infection stemming from when he had COVID-19.

“They basically said it is COVID-related because it’s triggered by a viral infection. What happened is it laid dormant in my son’s system, still testing negative, still without any symptoms, but it was still there,” Bonnet said.

Silva comes from a long line of nurses, according to Give in Kind, a support page for Silva and his family. He contracted COVID-19 in May ago along with the flu. He was working “on the front lines” in the Tampa area when he was infected. The young, fit nurse who is also described as “loving” and “hilarious” quarantined at home and thought he had fully recovered.

According to the Give in Kind page, he seemed fine for a while:

…until about 8 weeks after his recovery some unwarranted complications had presented. Desmon and Brooke, his girlfriend of 3 years, were driving home from their date night when Desmon suddenly started to feel funny and knew immediately something was wrong. They went to the ER where Desmon was suddenly paralyzed from the neck down. Due to these complications, Desmon was intubated and now needs a ventilator to breathe for him. The virus is thought to have caused swelling on his spine which is why he is paralyzed from the neck down.

Doctors Say Sometimes Neurological Damage From Coronavirus Can Lead to Paralysis


GettyDoctors and nurses wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as they perform a procedure on a coronavirus COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) at Regional Medical Center on May 21, 2020 in San Jose, California. tty Images)

Critical care physician and neurointensivist Robert Stevens, M.D., who is the associate director of the Johns Hopkins Precision Medicine Center of Excellence for Neurocritical Care estimated half of the patients he sees who have COVID-19 have some kind of neurological issues.

He wrote of the theories on why the virus is impacting people neurologically in an article for Johns Hopkins Medicine, saying, “Patients are also having peripheral nerve issues, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can lead to paralysis and respiratory failure. I estimate that at least half of the patients I’m seeing in the COVID-19 units have neurological symptoms.”

According to Bonnet, she told Boston25 News her son’s doctors say that his “tentative diagnosis” is transverse myelitis, which is an inflammation on both sides of the spine, according to MayoClinic.

MayoClinic reports “there are many different causes of transverse myelitis, including infections and immune system disorders that attack the body’s tissues. It could also be caused by other myelin disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.” Most people recover somewhat, the medical website says, but some can be left with “major disabilities.”

According to Stevens, there are four theories as to why COVID-19 has so many effects on the brain causing, “confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures stroke, loss of smell and taste, headaches, trouble focusing, changes in behavior, and sometimes paralysis.

He says doctors are looking at causes of neurological damage being caused by “severe infections” in which the virus can get into the brain and spinal fluid. An “immune system in overdrive” can lead to a “maladaptive inflammatory response.” That response can be worse than the effects of the virus itself. Another theory is that so many physiological changes in the body at once can lead to “chaos in the body,” and the final theory is that blood-clotting can “block narrow arteries leading to the brain,” causing strokes.

A GoFundMe for Silva Has Raised Nearly $123,000 To Help With the Costs of His Care & Rehab

According to WFLA, doctors told Silva’s family that he needed to be moved to the Boston hospital to be in a neuro Intensive care unit. It was going to cost $40,000 to fly him there in a private plane that is set up like an ICU. The family has already been able to raise that money — and then some — of their $200,000 goal.

Bonnet, who is also a nurse, told WFLA, “This is definitely a nightmare for any parent to go through. We want to raise awareness with this, we’re doing this for Des, but we’re also doing this to raise awareness in regards to the COVID and how important it is to stay safe and to listen to what’s going on in the news. This doesn’t have any age discrimination, clearly. You could be the age of two or 92 and still deal with the complications.”

Silva is described on the GoFundMe page:

Desmon’s smile could light up the skyway. His giggle could make waves ripple through oceans worldwide. His zest for life could move mountains. He will fight the fight to come back, but he has a long road ahead. Desmon is a devoted and loving son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, partner, and recent RN working in a hospital on the front lines – always willing to go the extra mile for his family and friends, and his patients.

His loved ones are asked to “come together to go the extra mile for him. Desmon needs to return to breathing and walking on his own, so that he is able to continue helping and healing people, living the big and the small moments of his young life, catching sunsets, seeking adventure, celebrating his accomplishments, and growing old with those he loves.”

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