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Woodland teen hospitalized with eighth viral meningitis diagnosis

Neumann family

Elianna Neumann, left, poses for a family photo with her mom, second from the left, and siblings in May 2019. 

In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Woodland teenager Elianna Neumann was hospitalized not with COVID-19, but with a painfully familiar disease — meningoencephalitis. 

On Tuesday, a week before her 17th birthday, Elianna was diagnosed with viral meningitis and encephalitis — for the eighth time. 

"I am terrified because of it," said Elianna's mother, Miranda Neumann, speaking of the outbreak. "We're used to chaos, to life stopping. But life has really truly stopped because of this." 

The family has been isolating at home for a few weeks to protect against the coronavirus because Elianna's immune system is "almost nonexistent," Neumann said. 

Elianna was fine until Sunday night, when she told her mom she didn't feel well and that her head, neck and back hurt. Headache, stiff neck, fever, nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of viral meningitis.

"She knows her body and knows when she's sick," Neumann said. 

Neumann took her daughter to Doernbecher Children's Hospital Monday, and doctors diagnosed her with viral meningitis the next day. 

"They trust our judgment by now," Neumann said. "If we say it's back, then it is. And it was." 

Doctors first diagnosed Elianna with viral meningitis and encephalitis in 2013, when she was 10. Her last diagnosis was in July. The virus inflames tissue around the brain and spinal cord and can cause neurological damage. 

Elianna's stay in the Oregon Health and Sciences University hospital has been different this time because of the coronavirus. Only one visitor is allowed, which is hard for Neumann, a single mom with three other kids, including a son who is still nursing. 

"I appreciate the precautions for the safety of my child, other patients and caregivers," Neumann said. "But it definitely makes things difficult." 

Elianna will take anti-viral medication for 10 to 21 days. Neumann hopes her daughter can leave the hospital once she's stable and continue treatment at home. 

Neumann said before her daughter got sick she would wear a mask and gloves to the store, shop quickly, and immediately shower and wash her clothes after getting home. 

"I didn't want to take the chance, even with all our precautions," she said. 

Now that Elianna is back in the hospital, Neumann said meeting the family's basic needs, such as getting groceries, will be a struggle. Neumann said her father has been a "huge help" and has been staying with her other children, and she also has support from her church family. 

"We'll do what we always do," she said. "Take it day by day." 

Most people who get the viral meningitis recover within two weeks and only get it once, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite participating in studies and working with specialists, Neumann said doctors still don't know why Elianna is so susceptible to the virus. 

"I feel like we hit a brick wall every single time," she said. 

Elianna is a "really tough kid," but she's mad about her diagnosis, her mom said. 

"She said, 'Why? This isn't fair. Why do I have to deal with this?' " Neumann said. "I don't blame her a bit." 

Neumann said since everyone's lives are affected by the coronavirus outbreak she hopes more people can emphasize more with her family and others with compromised immune systems.  

"I hope it's eye-opening for other people to understand what it’s like. This is our lives every single day." 

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