The disease ,linked to eating infected beef was first reported in the United Kingdom in 1996 and since there is no known cure for the degenerative, fatal brain disorder.
Charlene is the only person living in the United States with the human form of mad cow disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doctors at the CDC said they are sure Charlene caught the disease while living in Britain.Charlene lived in England until moving to Florida 11 years ago at age 13. So far, 143 people in Britain have contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or vCJD, also known as the human form of mad cow. Six of them are still alive.
According to the CDC, Charlene sought medical help for memory loss and depression in November 2001, and a month later she reported involuntary muscular movements, changes in her walking and difficulty in dressing.
Her condition continued to worsen. In less than a year, Charlene was bedridden, unable to eat by herself and no longer able to communicate with family members. Doctors had given her a few months to live.Since then, her parents said Charlene has not gotten any better nor has she become any worse.However it is remarkable that Charlene is still living today.
Researchers feel that there is still much that they do not know about vCJD, For example, the route of infection, the incubation period, the level of exposure required to cause the disease and the possible role of genetic susceptibility. They feel that it is likely to be some years before they are able to make soundly based predictions about the future course of the disease.
Modern medicine has found no cure yet, but members of Charlene's family said they will not give up. They bathe and feed her, caring for her around the clock.
A neurologist has been giving Charlene hyperbaric treatments -- pumping pure oxygen into her lungs - so that the brain may function better. She gets treatments three times a week and her neurologist feels it was worth a try with Charlene since the treatment has alleviated other brain disorders.
After 192 treatments, she's not only alive, but she's trying to talk," he said. "She's responsive and trying to respond to simple commands. [But she] still [has] a long way to go."
According to Charlene's dad , she has put weight on ,she looks brighter, she moves around a lot more and she murmurs a lot more. Charlene's dad says "I am not giving up on my daughter, not for one moment, I think if we've come this far, we can go further, and I hope one day and pray she'll walk off this bed. I have no doubt."