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," Bunch's mom Destiny Maynard told WQAD.

Bunch spent most of the next 48 hours sleeping -- and that's when his parents knew something was wrong.

"His progression went from zero to 100 in a matter of four hours," his father Elijah Bunch said.

The teen was rushed to the ICU in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital in Iowa City where his parents got the diagnosis. Bunch has acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a rare autoimmune disease that rapidly attacks the brain and spinal cord.

Iowa City doctors see about six cases a year, according to WQAD, and they say Bunch'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."

His parents said Bunch proved that in just 14 years on Earth, it's possible to make a difference.

"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," Maynard said.

Doctors said the teen's 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," his father said.

On Monday afternoon, Bunch underwent more testing at the hospital. His parents said that even though things don't look good right now, their son is still fighting.

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

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.