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Boy Fights for Life Against Cannibalizing Virus

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“He was a very rambunctious young boy. Fearless. Could not sit still. He was always bouncing a ball or running around, climbing a wall, climbing a tree, just full of life. He had the best smile. He could light up a room,” Rebecca says of her son Ethan.   

The evening of January 8, 2010, Rebecca and Javan came home from a basketball game with their children, unaware that their lives were about to change drastically. “We got home and put the kids to bed and probably about 1:30 in the morning Ethan began throwing up and then Saturday morning he had a low-grade fever,” Javan says. “At that point, we didn't really think it was anything other than just a cold or a low-grade, flu-type symptom and figured he would be fine.”

But Ethan was not fine. In fact, he had contracted viral myositis with rhabdomyolysis, a rare and potentially fatal virus that mimics the flu and attacks muscle tissue.  Javan recalls “We needed to take him to the Emergency Room. He was on the morphine drip, and they could only give it to him every two hours, I didn't sleep at all that night, and I would just shake his – I'd grab his heels, his feet in my hands, and just kind of move them, like this.  And that would soothe him enough to get him through that next hour. And it was at that point where they had diagnosed him with the viral myositis.”

Over the next two days, his condition worsened quickly. Ethan’s doctor, Vipul Patel, says, “The CPK level is a level which is measured when you have muscle breakdown. When the breakdown occurs, the level starts going up high. Normally, it’s less than 200. He started with like 16,000 and it started going up to around 700,000.”  

Javan: “I said ‘What does this mean? And he said, ‘You don't want to know,’” Javan recalls.
“When the doctor said that, I just remember thinking, ‘I can't lose him.’ I just couldn't even picture my life without him,” Rebecca adds.

“Once it attacks the muscles, there is no end to it,” says Dr. Patel. “When you start looking into the virus, and the muscles, they’re gone. So the muscles were melting away.”

The Conleys began contacting friends and family on Facebook, at their home church, and all across the country asking people to pray for Ethan to be spared.  “I think our prayers went into a different mode at that point,” Javan says. “We began reaching out to our church family, telling everybody to pray. ‘We don't know what's going on, but it appears that Ethan's fighting for his life.’”

“We got the news and we decided, ‘Okay, all right, this is what we have, and our God is bigger than this. So we need to just draw on that.’ So that's what we did.”

The staff also warned that if he did survive, there would likely be long term side effects.  Usually you will have some kidney dysfunction, some residue of kidney problems muscle problems, gait problems, heart problems,” Dr. Patel adds.  

Rebecca remembers, “Ethan was just lying there and he started looking at something and following it out the room. And he said, ‘No, don't leave. Don't leave.’ And I said, ‘Ethan, everything's okay, we're right here, mom and dad's right here,’ and he said, ‘No, I don't want you to leave me.’ I felt like he was watching an angel and it was leaving the room and he was afraid that it was leaving him and wasn't covering him anymore.”

“Fear gripped me,” Javan admits. “I thought maybe it was death that had come for him.” Javan and Rebecca knew Ethan’s life was in God’s hands.

“They couldn't find a pulse on him,” Rebecca adds, “and it was getting really dim. I just wanted to look at Ethan, and look at every part of him, and try to remember and capture everything about him, in case I lost him. I went into the meditation room and poured out my heart to God. And that was my God moment. I just poured everything out to him and said, ‘God, if you take Ethan, I will serve you, and if you leave him here with us I will serve you. No matter what, you're a good God.’”

Javan adds, “I had a friend from our church that came, Jason Elliott is his name, and he came. Jason told me, ‘That angel that Ethan saw is here to minister to him, not to take him.’ And Jason didn't know anything about the situation.’”

“I felt a peace about it. I felt like God was just letting us know that he was there with us and taking care of things,” Rebecca says.

Dr. Patel was shocked: “Within 48 hours of the breakdown, he started recovering. It just was amazing.”

The Conleys knew they had witnessed a miracle.

Today Ethan recalls, “My time in the ICU I don't remember a whole lot. I do remember seeing two angels. I could tell that everything was going to be all right from that point on.”

Not only did Ethan recover, there was no permanent damage to any of his organs. he recently accepted a basketball scholarship to Ashland University. “It's amazing for people that I didn't even know that were praying for me,” Ethan says. “They just kept believing that God would perform a miracle, and they definitely play a part in this miracle.”

“We felt that the staff and the doctors in Dayton Children's were Godsends to us,” Rebecca stresses. “When they were binding together with us and praying with us, that just made our faith rise that much higher.”

“We've had opportunities to share our testimony, share the goodness of God,” says Javan. “Things in this life are not always going to go right, and we're certainly sensitive and aware of situations that don't end up in a happy place like Ethan is currently. But the most important thing is to focus on that peace that God can give. We're going to have trials, we're going to have tribulations. The only way to get through those situations is to have a foundation in Christ that can get you through.”

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About The Author

Randy Rudder

Randy Rudder received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Memphis and taught college English and journalism for 15 years. At CBN, he’s produced over 150 testimony and music segments and two independent documentaries. He lives in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, with his wife, Clare, and daughter Abigail.