Patient Stories

Robert Siefken

Robert, GBS patient

One morning (some years ago), I’d just got done paying for some goodies at the local 7-11, stepped off the curb to get into my car, and had this weird feeling in my legs. Two days later, I found myself in a local ICU, unable to walk and barely able to use either hand. After five days in the hospital, I left without a diagnosis and went home to figure out what to do next.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law volunteered with the Assistance League and got me a walker immediately. And, I’m glad I had just enough juice left in my arms and upper body to use it. A month later, I was diagnosed with a rare (and aggressive) neuromuscular disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The possible causes are numerous. Mine? It’s probably from a recent respiratory infection. From there, things somehow went haywire, and something in my body started attacking my nerves and muscles.

My wife was still working, so for most of the day, it was just me and our loving and beautiful cat, Rosie (R.I.P. 2018), together at home. Rosie immediately decided that my lap had become her property and that there was to be no discussion about it. So, every day, she sat (and napped) on my lap, and we watched movies and comedy shows. My wife. I don’t know how she did it. With me barely able to shuffle and roll around the house, she took care of my every need while holding down a full-time job. She never complained (not once) and loved me more than I thought anyone could.

One afternoon, I was in the kitchen leaning against the counter and felt something against my left calf. I looked down and saw it was Rosie rubbing up against my leg. It probably wouldn’t be a big deal for most people, but it was to me. It was a big deal because it meant I was getting some feeling back in my legs!

So, one day I decided I’d had enough of this stupid disease, folded up the walker, stashed it in a corner, and figured I’d do whatever it took to get around under my own power. I looked at the calendar; it was June the 4th, 2009. I’m mostly recovered now and appreciate that I can get from here to there. And, today, June 4th, my wife and I took a one-hour walk in the park to celebrate the 15th anniversary of my ditching my walker. 

I have absolutely no proof of what I’m about to say. But I know in my heart that the constant love and care I got from my wife and our marvelous little cat, Rosie, made a huge difference in my recovery, and I’ll always be grateful to them. Never underestimate the power of people and pets to help us get through and, in this case, help make us well again.