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Pryor family raising awareness after rare parasite infects toddler

Posted at 10:38 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 11:51:49-05

PRYOR, Okla. — One Pryor family is hoping to raise awareness after they nearly lost their toddler to a rare parasite.

“There were plenty of days where we weren’t sure if we were ever going to bring him home again or not," said Colten Barnes.

Colten and his wife Alycia noticed something wasn’t right with their 17-month-old son Ryder at Thanksgiving. He wasn’t eating, he was cranky, and he started limping.

They took him to a doctor that Monday where he got some medicine and was sent home. The next day, he wasn’t any better. So Alycia went to a second doctor, and after a blood test, Ryder was admitted to the Children's Hospital at Saint Francis.

“Two days into it they were saying, 'Oh it’s just a virus,'" Alycia said. "And then all of a sudden he went limp. So while we were there he got way worse, in about 48 hours. So at that point we were like, okay this is more than just a virus. What’s going on?”

After a week at Saint Francis and still no answers, they took Ryder to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston to see a pediatric neurologist. And after 28 days in a hospital, they got the news that it was Baylisascaris. It's a parasite found in raccoons that is transferred to children by putting dirt in their mouths. It’s so rare the closest place to test for it was in Canada. There have been less than 30 cases of it in the US in the past 40 years.

“That’s when you know you’re just in uncharted territory," Colten said. "When the doctors come in and they say ‘We don’t know.’ They literally don’t know a prognosis. They said we don’t even know someone who knows someone who's had a case of this.”

Now, Ryder is back in Oklahoma at the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany where he’s having to relearn how to do everything. Alycia said he couldn’t hold his head up when he left Houston. Now, he’s eating and drinking.

“I mean, there’s no light way to put this, he’s not himself anymore," Alycia said. "But, he can relearn it. And there is that hope there. No one has ever told us he’s never going to see or walk or talk, they just don’t know.”

Alycia and Colten said their faith, friends and family are keeping them going.

If they’ve learned anything, it’s to never stop searching for answers.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion or demand a second opinion," Colten said.

"That’s honestly a big part of what saved his life is advocating for him," Alycia said.

Ryder will be at the rehabilitation hospital for seven more weeks. Then he finally will get to go home.

Now, Colten and Alycia ask for prayers for a full recovery.

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