Tuesday, Feb. 5 started out as a normal day for Chris and Jessie Henderson of Paris and their two children.
It went badly south just before time to put the children to bed when what ever it was that was stalking their daughter Olivia, 10, struck. What it was remains a mystery to this day. Whether it will strike again is also a mystery.
After washing her hair, Olivia came into the living room and sat down. Jessie described her as "fidgety."
"She wouldn’t stop fidgeting. She said her feet were burning. She just has this lost look," Jessie said.
Then, she started struggling to breath, gasping for air and went pale. No color at all, Jessie said.
"We took her blood pressure and it was high. We took her pulse and it was high," Jessie said. "So we threw some clothes on her and headed to the hospital."
Then came the moment Jessie can’t remember without the tears flowing.
Olivia was in the back seat. She started slurring her words. Her eyes wouldn’t open. She leaned her head back and gurgled. "Then she went silent," Jessie said.
Jessie reached into the back seat and slapped her daughter, hoping and praying for a reaction.
There was none.
"We thought she was dead," Jessie said."Then, I asked her when her birthday was. She said May 6 and that’s right, but she was slurring her words."
Once inside the Emergency Room at Mercy Hospital in Paris, doctors immediately started working on Olivia. Still, no response from the child. At one point, thinking she was having a seizure, medication was administered but it didn’t revive her.
However, there was a problem. Despite being in that condition, the child’s vital signs we all perfect, Jessie said. "They couldn’t find anything wrong with her vitals," she said.
The doctors decided Olivia should be transported to Arkansas Childrens Hospital in Little Rock. The transfer was done by ambulance because it was too foggy for the ACH helicopter to fly, Jessie said. They arrived at 4 a.m. Then, more tests were undertaken which came back normal and eventually, the doctors described Olivia as being "in a comatose state," Jessie said.
"By 10 a.m. they had done 15 or 16 tests," Jessie said. "They all came back normal. According to the tests, there was nothing wrong with her. The couldn’t understand why she wasn’t waking up."
The infectious disease team was called in. There was nothing wrong with the girl.
The neurology team was called in. There was nothing wrong with the girl.
They did a lot of blood work. There was nothing wrong with the girl.
Except that she wouldn’t wake up or otherwise respond, Jessie said.
"The nurses were dumbfounded," Jessie said. "They didn’t know why she wasn’t waking up. Doctors told us she might not wake up again."
Olivia was laying in a hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit at Childrens. It was Wednesday night, Feb. 6. There was still no answer to the mystery that puzzled parents, doctors and nurses.
Then Chris Henderson touched his daughter’s ear and Jessie glanced at her cell phone and read a message stating that a lot of people were praying.
And then, Olivia opened her eyes for the first time. She closed them quickly. Chris touched her ear again and started calling his daughter’s name. Three times, he touched her ear and called her name. Then, again, her eyes opened and stayed that way.
"We knew she was back. We just knew it. When she smiled, she had that look to her face," Jessie said.
Within 30 minutes, Olivia was sitting up and talking. She remembered everything that happened up to the point she dried her hair that Tuesday night, Jessie said.
The next day, her doctor came in and looked and Olivia’s chart. Then, looked at Olivia. That sequence happened twice before the doctor closed the chart, went outside and spoke to the nurse. The doctor asked if this was the right room and the right patient because "that child was comatose yesterday," Jessie said.
Then came more tests. Everything was normal and so was Olivia. In all, Jessie said more than 1,000 tests were conducted. They all came out normal. And so, the mystery remains. And, the mystery is not making friends at Childrens Hospital.
"They were frustrated," Jessie said. "They wanted to know what happened and they couldn’t find out."
Olivia was released from the hospital and returned home on Saturday, Feb. 9. She was taken back to Little Rock to be seen by a neurologist on April 5. "They told us don’t come back, you’re fine," Jessie said.
But the mystery remains.
"The doctors have never heard of anything like this before," Jessie said. "It was very hard for them to send her home not knowing what happened.
"I have no clue what happened to my child," Jessie Henderson said. "One minute she’s fine. The next minute, we thought she had died."