The Grizzly Growl

One in a Million

Copper Hills Senior refuses to bow to rare, life-threatening disease

Drew Olsen clasps hands with his brother.

Drew Olsen clasps hands with his brother.

Drew Olsen clasps hands with his brother.

Mandy McAnally, Layout & Design Editor, Social Media Manager

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Walking into a hospital can be scary, alarming, and overall nerve-racking. These are just some of the feelings the Olsen family felt when they walked into the hospital for the first time this summer. Drew Olsen, a Copper Hills High, senior woke up with a fever on June 25th, 2017. The typical fever that everyone seems to get every now and then, but on the afternoon of June 30th, Drew could no longer speak coherently, it was clear that this was much more than just a simple fever.


The beginning was chaotic, confusing, and overwhelming. No one seemed to know what was wrong. Doctors first speculated that he had viral encephalopathy, but then the first seizure hit. From there, the seizures just kept increasing. with more and more everyday the doctors began to research every possible thing they could to find out what was wrong. Finally, they came up with a proper diagnosis, FIRES (Febrile Infection-Related Epilepsy Syndrome). FIRES is by definition: “A severe brain disorder that develops in previously healthy children after a fever. This syndrome causes a very sudden onset of nearly continuous seizures which do not respond to seizure medications.” Approximately one in a million children get this rare condition and because of this, there is only limited information on how to treat it. Doctors began the most common form of treatment, which is a medically induced coma. Drew was overall in a coma or unconscious for about five weeks with few attempts to wake him up to check his seizure activity. About three weeks into the medically induced coma when the seizures seemed to never end, the doctors resorted to plasmapheresis as their next step.


Plasmapheresis is a method of extracting blood plasma from the body and then replacing it with new or donor plasma to get rid of the antibodies that are attacking the brain. This is risky because with plasmapheresis it is extremely easy to get sick, but it is a necessary evil to try and help Drew. Finally after five treatments of plasmapheresis, the doctors took Drew out of the coma to see what difference it made. Sadly Drew was still having seizures, up to about 300 per day. Doctors began to realize that maybe they had been treating this illness wrong and began to treat it as a autoinflammatory disorder rather than an autoimmune disorder. They started Drew on some new medicines and even performed surgery for a tracheostomy. Through all of these things, ever so slowly, Drews seizures began to decrease. With this, he finally began to not only wake up, but began to really be aware. In recent days, Drew’s progress has skyrocketed and everyday he overcomes a new obstacle.  


While Drew still has a long road in front of him with rehabilitation and physical therapy, he is truly one in a million. Now, two months later his family and friends celebrate the improvements he has been making and are anxiously awaiting for him to get out of the hospital and back to school.

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One in a Million