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Tuesday, March 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Near death, graduate pulls through

University’s Pauley beats rare encephalitis

University High School’s Kyra Pauley volunteers in her mother’s classroom, working with preschoolers Kadyn Maxwell, right, and Jace Bessermin, left, in March in Spokane Valley. (Tyler Tjomsland)
University High School’s Kyra Pauley volunteers in her mother’s classroom, working with preschoolers Kadyn Maxwell, right, and Jace Bessermin, left, in March in Spokane Valley. (Tyler Tjomsland)
By Treva Lind

Kyra Pauley doesn’t remember much about spring break last year, only what to call the rare autoimmune disease that stole weeks of her life: acute necrotizing encephalitis.

Pauley felt so sick in early April 2014, she couldn’t go to classes and missed softball practice at University High School.

“I’m never one to miss a practice,” she said. “My body ached everywhere. My head hurt.”

On April 5, she collapsed in her dad’s home and had a grand mal seizure. She spent 14 days in Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit, lost 20 pounds and brushed close to death, said her mother, Kari Asti.

“Her brain swelled,” Asti said. “She had blood clots in her brain. She doesn’t remember any of it.”

Asti does. “Necrotizing is dying. It was trying to kill her. That’s why her recovery is absolutely amazing. Because of the meds, she became diabetic, hypertensive. She had GI bleeds. She had pneumonia. She had tubes coming in and out everywhere, and machines breathing for her.”

Pauley received antibiotics and 10 days of high-dose steroid treatments. After three days, the MRI got worse. She didn’t improve until around day six.

“They told us she probably wasn’t going to make it,” Asti said. “They still call her a miracle because she’s not supposed to be alive, or not a vegetable.”

Pauley recovered and got back on track this year to graduate with her days balanced around classes, preschool volunteering at the Central Valley Early Learning Center and a job at Orchard Crest Retirement Community. She plans to attend Spokane Community College.

While recovering, Pauley had to learn how to walk again and did physical therapy at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute. Doctors still don’t know how she got the illness.

“I guess I came out of it,” she said, smiling. “They said if I didn’t have the muscle strength I had, I probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Pauley is interested in studying special education or respiratory therapy. As a sophomore, she’d taken an extra class at Spokane Valley Tech that filled a credit gap after she had to drop junior-year math. Teachers last year waived some assignments and told her to focus on getting better.

This year, she stayed on top of school assignments and work. Her Orchard Crest job involves serving drinks and doing meal cleanup, but she most enjoys talking to seniors.

“They’re so funny and so cute,” she said.

She also likes working with preschool students, so her days require interacting with people from age 4 to 100.

Pauley described herself as both shy and part tomboy. She likes to wear makeup and go shopping, but has outdoorsy interests. “I like hunting and fishing, dirt-biking and four-wheeling.”

She’s also participated four years in the Advanced Via Individual Determination class with the same group of U-Hi students.

“It’s a class that helps you get into college,” she said. “It’s helped me open up more because of having to talk in front of people.”

Asti described her daughter as a warrior with heart. “She’s kindhearted. Her strength is just amazing.”

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