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article imageMysterious illness kills Atlanta mother of two after day at pool

By Megan Hamilton     Aug 4, 2015 in Health
Atlanta - She was just out for a day of fun with her two young daughters at a local pool in mid-July, but the next morning, Stefanie Ballard woke up with nausea, fever, and a headache.
She began losing muscle control and fell. Then partial paralysis set in.
So her husband, Pete Ballard rushed her to Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Fox News reports. Tests revealed swelling in her brain, but doctors couldn't identify the illness causing it. They did, however, rule out stroke and aneurysm.
"Her immune system is confused and actually attacking her brain, confusing it for a virus or some other kind of thing that needs to be fought," Pete said.
First, the paralysis attacked her right side, but then Pete noticed that the left side of her smile was drooping, The New York Daily News reports. Doctors confirmed that the paralysis had spread to the left side of her body.
Friends and family created a GoFundMe account to help pay for Stefanie's medical expenses.
"Please continue to keep Stef and her doctors in your thoughts and prayers tonight," Pete Ballard wrote in one update.
Pete regularly posted updates on the page.
"They do believe her brain will heal and that intensive rehab and therapy is her best hope for a full recovery," he posted at one point. "The brain turns off quickly, but takes a long time to restart."
And she appeared to be healing. Stefanie even managed to stand with the help of a walker after more than two weeks in intensive care, but then her health took a devastating downward spiral in the days that followed.
But the swelling constricted the blood vessels in her brain. Stefanie went into cardiac arrest on Sunday, and that cut off oxygen. She never recovered.
In a last attempt to relieve the pressure, doctors inserted a tube into her brain, but that failed, and the mother of Riley, 6, and Reese, 4, died surrounded by friends and family.
"We are so grateful for the love that she showered on us, and the wonderful, funny, smart, stylish and generous person we all knew and loved," Pete wrote on the GoFundMe page. "She was a blessing to all who knew her."
"Please keep her family and friends in your warm thoughts and prayers."
Now, her family and friends are trying to pick up the pieces.
"It's very sad, and it's very tragic," Stefanie's friend Angie Chesin told WSB-TV2. "It's just a mystery how someone could be perfectly healthy and just two weeks later, be not with us anymore."
Pete Ballard owns a small video production service and is now faced with a mountain of medical bills and living expenses, and while the couple's friends set up the GoFundMe account, they are also planning yard sales to help out.
"We're just brainstorming a lot of ideas, on how to help them and the two girls' transition into their new life," Chesin said.
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