Abby Lee Miller almost died after suffering from an extremely unusual spinal infection that left her paralyzed from the neck down.
Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, an orthopedic spine surgeon who treated Miller, tells PEOPLE the former Dance Moms star went into the emergency room after she experienced “excruciating neck pain” and weakness in her arm. Extra first reported the news.
“Over the next two days, her condition started deteriorating,” Melamed said of Miller’s time in Cedar Sinai Marina Del Rey Hospital. “Not just her pain, but her weakness started getting worse. In the span of 24 hours, which was something that I have not seen, her condition rapidly deteriorated. She was completely paralyzed from the neck down.”
Melamed said he attempted to transfer Miller after her blood pressure began to bottom out, but he “felt if we tried she may not make it by the time she gets to another hospital.”
“We did a CT and we saw what appeared to be an infection that had spread from the bottom of her neck all the way to the lower part of her back… which is extremely unusual,” he said.
“If we didn’t do something, she was going to die. Her blood pressure was bottoming out. She was not doing well,” he added.
Miller went into surgery for a multi-level laminectomy at about 1 a.m. Tuesday. The almost five-hour surgery required an 18-inch incision on her back as Melamed had to remove the back part of several vertebrae to back to relieve pressure her spinal cord.
Melamed said he had “no idea” what caused Miller’s health to fail so rapidly.
“There could be a million reasons of this. Normally, you see this in someone who is compromised, if they have diabetes or [are] a smoker or [have] heart problems, but that’s not really her,” he said. “She has a very well controlled diabetes, actually her numbers are in the pre-diabetic range so to see something like that, it is extremely unusual.”
Since her surgery, the TV reality star has begun to feel more sensation while recovering in the ICU. As for whether she’ll walk again, Melamed said it was dependent on how she recovered.
“She’s made some recovery in 24 hours, which is better than no recovery,” he said. “Nobody wants to end up thinking they’re going to be paralyzed for the rest of their life. That’s a reality that’s facing all of these patients going into it. All you can do is pray and, as a surgeon, you maximize everything you can for the spinal cord to recover itself. I am hopeful.”
Melamed continued, “I think she’s a little bit more optimistic now because she’s feeling like she can move her arms, she has more sensation, she can feel her body now, she can feel her private area. That gives everybody hope.”
For now, the surgeon said they would “start mobilizing her, start thinking about the rehab, start pushing the body, pushing the brain and spinal cord for making recovery.”
Melamed said she could be released from the hospital into rehabilitation by the end of the week of the weekend “assuming we’re not doing another surgery.”
The star was hospitalized recently for a thyroid condition two weeks after she entered a halfway house. Miller was taken to an emergency room in Los Angeles, according to TMZ, which first reported the news.
Miller had been serving her 366-day sentence for bankruptcy fraud at the Victorville Federal Correctional Institution in California since July.
She was transferred at the end of March to the Residential Reentry Center in Long Beach, a facility that provides a structured and supervised environment where she’ll be given employment counseling, job placement and financial management assistance.
In May 2017, Miller received a sentence of one year and one day in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release for bankruptcy fraud. She was additionally fined $40,000 and ordered to pay the $120,000 judgment, as well as give a DNA sample relating to her felony charge.
Earlier this year, Entertainment Tonight reported Miller had lost about 100 lbs. and was feeling “great.” And Miller posted a photo of herself on Instagram in January wearing a prison uniform and posed up with some of her visitors.
“Sometimes in life, you make mistakes I trusted the wrong people and didn’t pay any attention to things I should of. I’m more than sorry for the mistakes I have made,” Miller wrote in the caption.
“My world flipped upside down when I had to enter prison,” she continued. “I did so with grace, the stories you read about me being a princess are untrue. I have made friends with both inmates and staff, I’ve tried to better myself, participated in anything offered to me and I am a better person for this experience.”