During the month of November 2011, I had a bad case of food poisoning. After a visit to my doctor, I was prescribed with an antibiotic, which seemed to be helping until the antibiotic was over and the abdominal pain and fever had returned! After being prescribed another antibiotic, I tried to return to my normal routine. One day as I went to wash my face, I noticed my hands had a funny shape. My fingers had more space between them despite the fact that I had instructed my hand to form a scoop. Then, the little fingers on each hand just went completely in separate directions (pointed sideward) resulting in water running out of my hands. Although this was not normal for me, I continued with my daily routine.
With the food poisoning finally over, I was ready to face the world and get active again. I was feeling somewhat lazy after being non-mobile for almost two weeks. My legs began to cramp, as if I had over-exercised, which I know I had not done so. I also realized that I was finding it difficult to sign and write. Similar to my hand shape, I continued with my day and did not think much about it. A few days later, I felt like getting something from the kitchen. Therefore, I commanded my legs, back, and arms to get me off the sofa. I was able to get up, but I felt weaker and my legs were cramping even more.
Every evening I have one flight of steps to tackle before going to bed. I was 30 years old – a flight of steps is a breeze no? The next evening, I was struggling. My wife had to help me go up this flight of stairs. I promised her worried mind that if I got worse, I would go to hospital.
The following day I WALKED into the Mater Dei hospital. Then, six hours later, I needed a wheelchair, unable to walk without falling. The doctor suspected it was GBS, but did not want to rush the diagnosis. A short time went by before I was practically paralyzed from the hips down and the shoulder area to my fingertips. The doctor ordered a spinal tap, which I thought to myself, “what is a spinal tap?” I asked with hope in my eyes, whether it was possible that I be spared this test, but no, it was necessary and therefore needed to be done. Then so be it. I’ll do it.
Thanks to the diligence of the medical labs teams, my result was back the next day indicating a clear diagnosis of Guillain Barre Syndrome. After twenty days in the hospital, I was finally sent home. The next few months were filled with physical and mental struggle that at times, I definitely imagined myself permanently crippled and at moments of weakness, I imagined any possible solution to take the pain away.
When I first attended my occupational therapy session, pressing an aerosol can was impossible. As time went on, I slowly made progress. From being unable to stand after sitting on the neuro-gym chair, I could stand back up but with extreme difficulty and assistance. However, it was progress! Nine months after diagnosis, I could do it numerous times without any difficulties. As my therapy sessions have now decreased to 2 times every week, my therapists are still working on me to improve my walk to a ‘normal’ one (as much as possible) and finger interossei movement. I’ve been promised that as soon as I can stand on my heel and have my hands improve, I’ll be out of out-patient therapy for good. I’ll fight it off till the very last moment!
Life is an amazing feat of probability, bordering on the improbable, yet it is. Many things changed in my life and those around me since the onset of GBS. Viewing matters in a long-term fashion (the only way you should visualize things to increase the chance of being happier), has been an experience I would never forget.
Anyone still tackling GBS and is reading this – I tell you – stay strong and fight it.