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Family photo
Vitor de Azevedo plays with an iPad as he lays in a hospital bed at Primary Children's Medical Center, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. Vitor recovering from Guillain Barre Syndrome.

SALT LAKE CITY — Dancing to Michael Jackson tunes, 8-year-old Vitor de Azevedo was always a lively child. But two weeks ago that all changed.

His parents took him to the emergency room at Primary Children’s Medical Center for a respiratory illness and while in the ER, he experienced paralysis.

“Suddenly he became paralyzed right before our eyes,” said Lex de Azevedo, Vitor’s father, who is a well-known composer of LDS music. “The left side of his face went down, and then he couldn’t raise one of his arms. … It was very frightening for us.”

Suddenly he was surrounded by machines, tubes for everything, including breathing.

Vitor had two illnesses. He contracted metapneumovirus, which is a common virus that causes respiratory illnesses in children. He also had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease of the nervous system that often occurs along with either viral or bacterial infections. It usually strike adults between 30 and 50 years old, but can also affect children. 

Symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness, difficulty moving facial muscles, difficulty breathing or swallowing and fainting. There is no cure, but most people recover with a combination of IV medications and physical therapy.

Monday brought good news. The tube came out, and Vitor began breathing on his own again. 

“Are you through torturing me now?” were his first words. “Yes, pretty much,” de Azevedo told his son. Then Vitor asked, "Can I go home now?"

Vitor is not yet walking on his own. He tried to stand up Monday, but was struggling because he doesn’t have the strength in his legs, de Azevedo said.

The de Azevedos do not know how long his recovery will take. “Physical therapy, it could be a month, it could be three years,” de Azevedo said. They are not sure how long he will be in the hospital.

“We are very hopeful,” said the boy's father. “We don’t know how long it will be. We don’t know what it will take, but we are prepared for anything that happens.”

Lex's wife, Rose, is from Brazil. They are grateful for Facebook connections, feeling the support of so many people from other nations.

“There has been a prayer chain going at noon every day to Brazil, people in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, all across the United States,” Lex de Azevedo said. “It’s been amazing.”

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com