Patient Stories

Timothy Pickering

Timothy Pickering patient photo at a rehabilitation hospital after GBS

In January of 2015, whilst training for a triathlon, I started feeling weak and out of breath. Putting this down to nothing more than a cold, I continued training. Progressively, the symptoms continued getting worse, however, not listening to my body, I continued to train.

4th February – I had extreme pins and needles in my hands, feet, and legs that would not go away. I felt like I hadn’t slept for days, and my temperature was severely elevated to the point where I felt like I was about to self-combust. I went straight to the local hospital’s ED and was admitted straight away after I saw the triage nurse, I collapsed on the ground. After a few hours, I started feeling weaker and weaker and gradually lost all feeling in my feet and lower legs to the point where I could no longer move my legs as they felt like lead weights.

A neurologist was assigned to me and diagnosed me instantly with GBS. I remember at the time saying to him, “That’s great doc, how long will I be unable to train for?” Within 24 hours of being admitted to the hospital, I was transferred to the ICU, completely paralyzed up to the neck, where I was intubated via a tracheostomy. This would become my new home for 101 days. I was treated with five rounds of plasmapheresis to help clean my blood of any antibodies; however, this did not work at all. Many times, whilst in ICU, I asked my partner to let me die or to turn off the ventilator as I was in such immense pain and on so many pain relief drugs, I couldn’t tolerate it anymore. Thankfully she ignored those requests.

After three and a half months in ICU, I started to get some movement back in my hands and arms, and after being taken off the ventilator, was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital that I would call home for a further 5 1/2 months. I had to learn to talk, to use my hands, to write, to use my legs and feet all over again. After starting rehab bed-bound, then moving to a wheelchair and then onto a forearm support frame, I graduated to wearing an ankle foot orthotic and was able to walk on my own by the end of October 2015. I was finally discharged from hospital and had bright hopes for a full recovery. I worked super hard with a fantastic team of health professionals to get strong again, however, after three years of trying, I realized I would have to live with the fact that I will always have bilateral foot drop and have to wear ankle foot orthotics permanently.

What now? I am now a Registered Nurse and have the privilege to look after others. I still have bad days and still have the odd pity party where I wish I could do things as I used to, however, life is really what you make of it.