Part One: Guillain-Barré – Not an Irish Beer by Glenn Sulley
In a former life, I used to sing Irish songs in pubs back home in Newfoundland. Having tipped a mug of the Irish on more than one occasion, I know a little something about Irish beer and trust me; Guillain-Barré is not one of them.
I awoke early on the morning of Thursday, September 28, 2004. As I walked across the bedroom floor, my feet felt strange, as if they hadn’t awakened yet. It didn’t bother me much, and I assumed it would pass. On Friday morning, I was surprised to feel that same tingling sensation; but as a busy urology clinic nurse manager, I ignored it and went on with my day. On Saturday, I worked at the clinic for half a day. As the morning progressed, my feet began to ache and my left foot became numb around the heel.
What was happening to me?
Being a stubborn medical professional, I decided to let it go once again. After my shift, I spent the afternoon rehearsing with my band. As I played my guitar, I noticed that my fingers were curiously stiff, especially in my left hand. I was also starting to lose my voice. I began to have trouble hitting notes that I could normally sing. After practice, I felt so fatigued that I went straight home and took a long nap.
Sunday dawned and I prepared for church. As I showered, I noticed that now my arms felt weak, so much so that I had difficulty raising them to wash my hair. Nevertheless, I drove to church and managed to play guitar for two services. During the first, I struggled to keep my fingers on the strings and barely played the correct notes. Toward the end of the second service, I began to experience extreme pain shooting up and down my spine. I sat down and rested my back against a wall. I touched my throat and felt a knot.
I was alarmed now.
I stopped by at an after-hours clinic on my way home. The doctor could not make a diagnosis. He believed my back pain was musculoskeletal, but concerned about the tingling and numbness, he ordered an MRI of my brain and spine. As I drove home, my back still throbbed painfully. After taking my prescribed medications, I fell into bed and managed to get a decent night’s rest.
Monday morning, I still felt the numbness and tingling in my hands, feet, and upper back. I went to work and immediately contacted my doctor. I describe my symptoms and told him of the MRI that was scheduled for that evening. He decided to follow up with me after the X-ray. All I could think was – what is wrong with me?
I became really frightened.
Mid-morning, I sat in an examination room counseling a patient. I felt a sudden numbness around my lips and began slurring my words. Suddenly, a flashback from the past entered my mind. The symptoms I was experiencing were identical to those of a patient I had cared for in ICU during my nursing training. The diagnosis then was Guillain-Barré syndrome. I searched the Internet and found it.
In a panic, I called my doctor. He said to come in immediately. He examined me, consulted with a neurologist, and they admitted me to the hospital. My condition was declining rapidly. I was weak, short of breath, and now numb all over my body. I felt cold and I became increasingly afraid of what was to come. I challenged myself to stay calm despite my body breaking down before my eyes.
A diagnosis is made.
The neurologist performed multiple tests then made his diagnosis – Guillain-Barré syndrome, a very rare inflammatory disorder. He initiated treatment aggressively to hopefully decrease any change of progression. He explained that my body’s immune system had attacked the protective covering of my peripheral nerves. This weakened the signals transmitted from my nerves to my muscles. The syndrome could progress very rapidly. Ultimately, it could affect my entire body, and cause temporary paralysis.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1 NIV
When you are faced with the uncertain, scary things of life, whom do you trust?
My salvation and my light,
In the struggles of life, help me to trust in you.
In the dark places of this world, help me to see your illuminating presence.
Posted on Mon, February 22, 2016
by Micah James