Man, 23, Paralyzed by COVID-Linked Disorder Home After Months in Hospital

A nurse who was paralyzed by a COVID-19-related condition has returned to his home in Tampa having spent months receiving treatment in Massachusetts.

Desmon Silva, 23, described as "always willing to go the extra mile for his family and friends, and his patients," was rushed to hospital last July after experiencing neck pain and losing feeling in his hands.

Unresponsive upon arrival, he was placed on a ventilator in ICU, before being transferred to Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge, which specializes in rehabilitation.

Silva was diagnosed with Weston-Hurst syndrome, a severe form of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), which is a rare and potentially fatal condition associated with COVID-19.

ADEM is an auto-immune disorder that occurs when a person's immune system launches an attack on myelin, the protective covering of nerve fibers, resulting in widespread inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. This can lead to sight loss, loss of coordination, and paralysis.

It is usually associated with children, but COVID-19 is believed to have triggered numerous ADEM cases in adults during the pandemic.

"We will now share that Desmon has been diagnosed with ADEM-Western Hurst Disease, it was confirmed that it was secondary to COVID, and the reason for the severity of his case," Silva's parents wrote in November, sharing the news on a GoFundMe page that was set up to raise support for Desmon and raise awareness of the condition.

Silva was infected with COVID-19 around two months before he was initially rushed to hospital, and had appeared to have made a full recovery.

The link between COVID-19 and ADEM is yet to be studied in depth, but researchers have identified it as an area of concern.

A team of researchers from University College London wrote last year that the potential link "warrants close surveillance."

"ADEM ... is a disease mainly of children ... with an adult incidence in the UK of 0.23/100 000 ... The nine cases described were accrued over a 5-week period. In Greater London (population 9 million, Office for National Statistics, 2019), we would expect to see this incidence of cases in 5 months, which indicates that COVID-19 is associated with an increased incidence of ADEM," the researchers wrote.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that several serious long-term complications have been associated with COVID-19, including a range of neurological issues, and that multi-year studies are underway to investigate them further.

Desmon's family says that he can eat and speak, has full feeling in his body, and can twitch his fingers and toes when he tries to move his hands and feet.

However, he requires extensive care and assistive equipment, including wheelchairs, electric lifts, an eye-tracker and a pressure reduction bed.

"Unfortunately, the cold weather there took a toll on him—gloom and doom, basically," Lynette Silva, Desmon's stepmother, said after his return to Florida from Massachusetts.

"He's ready to see the palm trees and the sunshine and looks forward to sitting next to the pool."

Moderna vaccine shots being prepared in Tampa
Shot of the Moderna vaccine being prepared for administering on February 13, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. 23-year-old nurse Desmon Silva has returned home after spending months in hospital recovering from a disorder linked with COVID-19. Octavio Jones/Getty Images