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Medina girl is "truly a miracle child"

Sherry Schmidt could tell there was something wrong with her 1-year-old daughter, Katie, when all she wanted was to be held one stormy day in February three years ago.

So Sherry took her from their home in Medina to Jamestown, where Katie was tested for RSV and strep throat. The tests came back negative. Katie had a low-grade fever and was sent home with what seemed to be a viral infection.

But then Katie’s condition worsened, and she began having a seizure that would endure for an agonizing 90 minutes with her fever spiking to 106.2 degrees. It was a stormy day, and her father drove her in his four-wheel-drive to meet a volunteer ambulance crew that took her to Jamestown. Once she was stabilized, she was transported to the pediatric intensive care unit at Sanfored Children’s Hospital in Bismarck.

That’s a very long seizure that many people might not survive, but Katie was met by Sanford Health's neonatologist and pediatrician Rafael Ocejo, MD, who Sherry says, “worked on her until 3 in the morning.” It turned out she did have RSV, which likely caused the seizure and led to pneumonia. RSV is a common virus that leads to cold symptoms in adults and healthy children but can be a serious illness for babies. RSV tests can show negative results but later test positive.


Katie Schmidt survived a 90 minute seizure thanks to a great team of doctors.
Katie Schmidt survived a 90-minute seizure thanks to great teamwork from her doctors. Today, the healthy 4-year-old is full of energy. "She loves to smile, make you laugh," said Katie's mom, Sherry Schmidt.

Sherry said she could tell right away the left side of Katie’s tiny body wasn’t working right. It was paralyzed, which can happen after a severe seizure.

Dr. Rafael Ocejo
Rafael Ocejo, MD

Dr. Larry Johnson, Jamestown Clinic
Johnson, MD

Family medicine

  “When I finally got to hold her the next day, I could tell that side was just limp,” Sherry said. “After a couple of days, it just didn’t come back. She wouldn’t even recognize her
left side.”

Dr. Ocejo was cautiously optimistic.

“In all honesty, we didn’t know how much function she was going to recover of her left side of her body,” he said. “But in children, because they are very resilient, we always give them just about everything possible as a chance. We never say ‘They’ll never walk’ because they are always surprising us.”

Katie stayed in the Sanford Children’s Hospital for a month. During her stay, Katie began rehabilitation therapy, and the Schmidts learned ways to teach her to do things over again—such as how to roll over, get up on her hands, grasp objects, even suck fluids.

“We basically had to start her as an infant all over again,” Sherry said.

After two-and-a-half years of rehabilitation therapy, Katie regained the use of her left side and is now considered a normal 4-year-old preschooler.

“It took a long time to point her left finger,” Sherry said. “Or play piano with her fingers. It seemed the farther away the extremity, the longer it took.”

It’s rare for someone to suffer a seizure like that and not have epilepsy or a seizure disorder, Sherry said.

Dr. Larry Johnson, Katie’s doctor at Sanford Health 2nd Ave. Clinic, said the case was unusual because RSV usually doesn’t cause seizures. But Katie was a premature baby—five weeks early—and had a minute-long seizure a few months prior to the big one. “She’s lucky to be alive,” Dr. Johnson said. “She is truly a miracle child in that regard.”

Sherry credits all of the doctors with saving Katie’s life the day of the seizure. “It was a great teamwork effort,” she said, “between daycare, doctors and the good Lord above putting all the right people in the right places at the right time.”

“She’s a vibrant little girl,” Dr. Johnson said. “She’s smart as a whip, just sharp. She’s a happy little girl.”

Many times, the Schmidts have been told the girl they call Tinkerbell is a miracle.

“God kept her here for a reason,” Sherry said.

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