Patient Stories

Sara Ganem

On August 30th, 2019, my life changed forever. I woke up that morning and collapsed, and suddenly was unable to walk. Within 24 hours, I was paralyzed from the neck down. Since that day, I have been battling Guillain-Barré Syndrome. GBS paralyzed me from the neck down, put me in the ICU and caused me to stay in the hospital for 3.5 months, and outpatient rehab for almost 2 years. After 14 months of being unable to walk, I am proud to say that today I’m standing on my two feet. It has been the hardest 2 years of my life but I’m happy to say that it has truly made me so much stronger. I’m not going to lie, the journey was extremely tough. There were times where I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to walk again, if I would ever return to my “normal” life. There were times I felt like I should just give up. But I never lost hope and always had faith. I always had hope that I would be able to walk again, and having that end goal in my mind is what helped me push through.

At first it felt like GBS took everything from me, but really it gave me purpose. It gave me a new perspective on life. 

The extreme appreciation I have for small things like being able to turn on my own in bed (I had to have nurses turn me every hour each night when I was paralyzed from the neck down), to be able to brush my own hair, to be able to text and use my hands to communicate and point at things, to be able to stand up for the national anthem, stand up at a protest, to walk to another room, go up the stairs, to be able to drive, to be able to do things independently and not constantly having to ask for help. It is these tiny things which I now appreciate so much. It really is true, that you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. The simple act of walking gives us so much power, and we are so lucky to have control over our bodies, as many do not. I’m so thankful for all the support I’ve had on my journey, which is still not over. The unconditional support I’ve received from family and close friends during this difficult time has helped me push through and defy the odds.

At times it was difficult to relate to anyone as the enormity of my situation was hard to grasp, but I’m thankful for those who stuck by my side. 

I want to especially thank my parents, who took time off their jobs for a whole year and spent countless nights with me in the hospital, drove me all the way to Hamilton every week for physiotherapy, who helped me with every single thing I couldn’t do on my own, from getting in and out of the car, to transferring from bed to wheelchair, to making modifications to the house so that I could use a stair lift, to helping with daily routines, physio, bathing, dressing and all the things that I couldn’t do on my own. I couldn’t have done it without them. Although I am not fully recovered as I still can’t run, jump or walk without the support of AFO leg braces, I’m so thankful just for the ability to walk again. My goal is always to raise awareness about this rare disease, and in the future I hope to help others with this condition. Although nobody has experienced what I have, I hope that everyone reading this can take away something from my story. 

Be thankful for the ability to walk. Don’t take your health for granted. Be thankful for your family and close friends. Be thankful for the people that you know will be there for you in your time of need. Because without your health, everything else is meaningless. Not work, school or anything can be done without your health. So take a minute to appreciate that, and maybe even just imagine how different your life would be if you didn’t have the ability to walk, move, and have control over your life.