An adorable video has gone viral showing a father sharing a ‘heartbeat ritual’ with his infant daughter as she recovers from a rare polio-like illness.
Opal Trimble, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) in March when she was just five months old.
She’s spent the last several weeks recovering from the illness, which affects the nervous system, at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany.
Her father, Josh, told Good Morning America, which involves the father-daughter pair each bumping their chests, that he came up with the routine to let Opal know she was always in his heart, even when he couldn’t be there with her.
An adorable video has gone viral showing a father sharing a ‘heartbeat ritual’ with his daughter as she recovers from a rare polio-like illness (left and right). Opal Trimble, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, was diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis in March when she was five months old. Pictured, left and right: Josh Trimble beating his chest and Opal mimicking the movement
AFM is a rare disease that attacks the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the body’s muscles and reflexes to weaken. Pictured: Josh and Gretchen Trimble with their daughter Opal celebrating Easter
Josh said he was saying goodbye to Opal over her crib one day as he was getting ready to leave to go watch her siblings, a five-year-old brother and a three-year-old sister.
He thumped on his chest with his fist. In reply, Opal, now seven months, copied her father and beat her chest as well.
‘That moment of me beating on my chest was actually Opal and I sharing a heartbeat,’ Josh told Good Morning America.
‘I was letting her know that even though we may not be there physically together, we share a heartbeat.’
The video, which was filmed by Opal’s mother and Josh’s wife, Gretchen, was then shown to doctors as a sign of Opal’s progress after she spent her first seven weeks in the hospital paralyzed.
‘We had just finished some hard days of physical therapy for Opal, and her physical therapist had been trying to get her to reach out for things,’ Gretchen told Good Morning America.
‘We were just so encouraged, because the fact that she was mimicking [Josh] told us she knew what she wanted to do and she did it.’
Since the video was shared on Facebook by the Oklahoma Blood Institute, it’s been viewed more than 18,000 times.
Most children regain movement but, in some cases, they are required to be on respirators and could even die from neurological complications. Opal (left and right) is currently at The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany
Opal’s father, John, said he started the ‘ritual’ by thumping on his chest with his fist one day to let his infant daughter know she was always in his heart. Pictured: Opal with nurses
Little Opal came down with a cold in February but, within days, she was struggling to breathe and couldn’t move her arms or legs, reported The Shawnee News-Star.
Her parents rushed her to Integris Children’s at Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where the infant was admitted.
In early March, Opal was diagnosed with AFM, a rare condition that attacks the area of the spinal cord called gray matter, which causes the body’s muscles and reflexes to weaken.
It’s been called a polio-like illness due to its resemblance to the viral infection that impacted hundreds of thousands, particularly between the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Symptoms often develop after a viral infection, such as enterovirus or West Nile virus, but often no clear cause is found.
Patients start off having flu-like symptoms including sneezing and coughing. This slowly turns into muscle weakness, difficulty moving the eyes and then polio-like symptoms including facial drooping and difficulty swallowing.
In the most severe cases, respiratory failure can occur when the muscles that support breathing become weak. In rare cases, AFM can cause neurological complications that could lead to death.
No specific treatment is available for AFM and interventions are generally recommended on a case-by-case basis.
In April, Opal was transferred to Bethany Children’s Center so doctors could put her in physical and occupational therapy.
According to The News-Star, Opal is the third and youngest person in Oklahoma to contract AFM, so her treatment has been deemed experimental.
Immediately, Opal mimicked the move and beat her chest as well, which her parent say show she is regaining movement. Pictured: Opal with her father Josh
Opal’s parents say the infant has continued to do the movement she performed in the video, mostly initiating it with Josh. Pictured: Opal with her mother Gretchen
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 228 cases of AFM in 41 states.
However, increases in AFM cases occur generally every two years. In 2019, there have only been four confirmed cases in four states.
The Trimbles have created a Facebook group to post updates on Opal’s condition titled Opal’s Fight – Team Trimble.
Dr Michael Johnson, medical director of The Children’s Center and one of Opal’s physicians, said the video was encouraging because it means Opal is regaining mobility in her arms.
‘It is remarkable to see her spirit and to see how just bright and happy she is through all of it,’ said Dr Johnson told Good Morning America.
Opal’s parents say that the infant has continued to do the movement she performed in the video.
‘She seems to initiate it with Josh,’ said Gretchen. ‘She sees Daddy and starts doing it on her own.’