Teen fights for survival after headache leads to life-changing diagnosis

IOWA CITY, Iowa – An Illinois teen is fighting for his life after what he thought was a headache turned out to be a life-threatening condition.

Christopher Bunch, a 14-year-old aspiring YouTube personality about to start his freshman year in high school told his family that his head started hurting after a football practice last week.

"If anything, I was thinking he's probably just really dehydrated," Christopher's mom, Destiny Maynard, told WQAD.

Christopher spent most of the next 48 hours sleeping. That's when his parents knew something was wrong.

"His progression went from zero to one hundred in a matter of four hours," said his father, Elijah Bunch.

Christopher was rushed to the ICU in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City where his parents got the diagnosis. Christopher has ADEM disease. That's short for acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

It's a rare autoimmune disease that rapidly attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Iowa City doctors only see about six cases a year, according to WQAD, and they say Christopher's is the worst case yet.

Within a matter of hours the teen stopped breathing on his own.

"From that point on, everything just spiraled downhill," Elijah Bunch said.

Now, all these parents can do is pray and try to make their son's dream come true.

"He wanted to be known, and he wanted to be famous," the boy's father said. "He would have been one way or another."

Christopher proved that in just 14 years on earth, it's possible to make a difference, his parents said.

"How to love people with open arms, and how to live your life and be the best you – (that's) what he did every day," says Destiny.

Doctors say his prognosis is quite dire, and his parents are preparing themselves for an uncertain future.

"I'm so happy we had 14 beautiful years with him, but I'm so mad that's all that we got," Elijah said.

On Monday afternoon Christopher had more testing done at the hospital. His parents say even though things don't look good right now, their son is still fighting.

Most cases of ADEM disease are treatable, but Christopher's case wasn't so much worse than what doctors are used to seeing.

The family has set up a donation page to help with medical expenses.