Tammy Hembrow had just awoken her daughter, Saskia, from a nap and placed her on the ground for a diaper change when the one-year-old started screaming.


“I immediately knew something was wrong because she’s never done that before,” Hembrow said in a video on YouTube. The Australian fitness model described the strange symptoms that followed her daughter’s shrieks.

First, Saskia refused to stand. Hembrow called her partner, Reece, who pointed out the toddler might be grumpy from her nap. But what stood out most for Hembrow was her daughter’s unwillingness to walk. Once again, Hembrow placed the toddler on the ground and encouraged her to waddle but she cried instead and leaned forward on her arms.

Hembrow examined Saskia for a possible injury. With nothing visible the mother of two took Saskia to the hospital where she threw up—”everywhere”:

“The doctor came and saw her and was examining her, he was pushing on her stomach and then she projectile vomited everywhere.”

The doctor suggested Saskia had a stomach bug and advised Hembrow to take her home and keep her hydrated. Later that evening the toddler seemed to be on the mend—though she could still only crawl—but the morning saw Saskia’s condition worsen. The toddler continued to vomit.


Hembrow went back to the hospital explaining the toddler’s symptoms, including that she couldn’t walk. Doctors attributed it to the stomach bug, claiming it was making her tired and lethargic. Nevertheless, Saskia was admitted to the hospital to have fluids administered.

By morning, the little girl was holding food down and was sent home. But that afternoon, again following the toddler’s nap, Hembrow noticed a terrifying change:

“As soon as she woke up her eyes were literally rolling around everywhere. And they were going crossed…”

Doctors told Hembrow to come back but by the time they reached the hospital, Saskia’s eyes returned to normal. In addition to eyes that were “rolling back,” Hembrow insisted the little girl still couldn’t walk. Because none of Saskia’s symptoms presented themselves at the hospital, doctors didn’t know what to make of her condition.


Again, Saskia was admitted to the hospital but according to Hembrow this time around was “terrifying”:

“That night it was the most terrifying night for me. She kept vomiting, the eyes started getting worse and worse. Basically, it became constant. Her eyes would not focus on anything they would roll up and then flicker back down and roll up and then flicker back down and sometimes they would go inwards and it was the scariest thing to watch.”

Finally, Saskia’s eye movements were observed by nurses. Of equal concern was the toddler’s continued unwillingness to walk and at this point she could hardly even stand. As Hembrow described:

“She did not have a fever.. it was basically the vomiting, the eye rolling, and not being able to walk or balance. The balance issue also got worse—the not being able to walk—she couldn’t even sit up at that point. If I tried to make her sit up she would shake, like wobble, it was almost like vertigo like she couldn’t balance.”

In the morning, Saskia’s doctor once more tried to see if the toddler could walk. She couldn’t. The mother and daughter were taken by ambulance to another hospital where Saskia underwent an MRI and a spinal tap. The MRI came back normal, although there was a small abnormality in the spinal tap doctors assured Hembrow there was no cause for concern.


After a week in the hospital and a round of antibiotics and antivirals, Saskia’s condition improved. Doctors believed the toddler suffered from human metapneumovirus (HMPV), a respiratory disease particularly affecting children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Moreover, it was believed the condition triggered a rare complication known as acute cerebellar ataxia, in which the child’s body had begun attacking itself—in particular the brain.


According to the Journal of Child Neurology, ataxia is an impairment of balance and coordination caused by damage or dysfunction of the cerebellum. In just a few days following treatment, Saskia was standing and walking. Doctors assured Hembrow there would be no longterm effects, though the toddler will need a few weeks to recover.

Hembrow said her daughter is improving every day.

Leave a comment

We are excited to announce Dearly has joined forces with Mama’s Uncut. Helping Mom’s across the United States answer questions on life’s big challenges.