Paralysis in the Family.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For those of you who follow Happy Fit Me on Facebook, you may have noticed that my posts suddenly stopped almost a month ago now. It has been almost exactly one month since a train wreck hit brought life as I know it, to a halt. My husband woke up one morning with the feeling that he had dental freezing put into his arms. We didn’t think much about it at the time until the next day when the “freezing” sensation had advanced to his legs. A quick trip to the emergency calmed our worst fears when the doctors told us that it was just a minor response to a virus that my husband had had the week before, (funny enough we didn’t consider that the 5 day dull headache he had was a virus that turned out to be mononucleosis ). The doctor sent us away after taking some blood and confirming there was nothing wrong and so off we went to visit my sister in the big city. Sadly the freezing turned to a numbing situation and within 24 hours my husband looked like he’d been drinking way too much and was having troubles balancing himself. Within 48 hours of our little visit to the emergency my husband could no longer shower or dress himself. To say the least, I was getting very nervous about what was happening to him. So back to the hospital we went. But this time we were in a big city with a big hospital that had neurologists on call. After approximately 2 hours of tests they discovered that my husband had Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an auto immune disease response to a virus. Basically what happens is the antibodies that are fighting the virus in your body, turn around and start attacking the nerves. Fortunately this syndrome doesn’t attack the brain or spinal cord but rather just the periphery nervous system. The result of GBS is paralysis of your arms, legs and any of the muscle organs in your body-including your breathing muscle, the diaphragm. So now we were scared! Fortunately my husband’s case was considered to be mild in that he didn’t have to be hooked up to a respirator. “Thankfully” he only became about 80 to 85% paralyzed. To watch my husband go from a strong, athletic man to aging 25 years, becoming crippled and unable to perform the simplest function (like lifting a yogurt cup to eat) was one of the saddest moments of my marriage so far. Not only that, but our children had to witness their superhero become a man with limits, a man who needed their help and their strength. To say the least there were very many tears shed in our family the following 14 days. With GBS there are so many unknowns. Recovery from this syndrome can last anywhere from two weeks to three years. That range was really not comforting to a man who had lived his life playing sports at a very high-level and who loved his early morning jogging routines. It was hard to come home to a house filled with wheelchairs, walkers, and bath chairs. It was very depressing. It was crippling.

The first five days were the hardest. After several falls we finally adjusted to our new routine and to our new reality. We understood that it was going to take time and that we needed to make sure we planned our days properly so that fatigue wouldn’t take over my husband’s body and cause him to fall again. We’ve been home now for about 2 1/2 weeks and I’m happy to say that my husband is recovering incredibly fast. GBS typically has 100% recovery rate and is treatable. Yesterday he took his first trip downstairs and returned to work in his home office. It was a very happy moment for both of us. He’s about 70% healed and considering the trajectory that he’s on, we expect he’ll make a full recovery within the next two weeks. But really we can’t be sure given that every case is so different from the next.


So why am I telling this long story and sharing such a personal part of my life with all of you? Well part of it is because it helps to share with friends. Another part is to be able to share what I’ve learned through this journey so far. First it’s not how we start, it’s not even how we end, it’s how we handle the journey on the way. Second, everyone is vulnerable. My husband is an incredibly fit person. He takes vitamins and supplements religiously and he eats very healthy food. He leads a pretty well rounded life and for the most part maintains a pretty low level of stress. And he still got hit with a deadly disease! Thirdly, if you think that taking a magic pill to help you lose weight is going to make you more healthy, you’re wrong! It’s true you may end up thinner and fitting in your clothes better but the truth is you will not be healthier. If my husband had not been as active as he was, I truly believe he would not of had the capacity or the fortitude mentally to push through this disease. What I’m trying to say here is that we need to be active in our lives so that when tragedy strikes, our bodies can respond to the stress in the most efficient manner possible. I’m incredibly proud of my husband; more proud than I’ve ever been. He’s inspiring to me and to my girls. I hope that we don’t have to go through something like this again in our lives. But I know that it has made us stronger, it’s brought us closer together, and we learned some incredibly valuable lessons. And for that I’m thankful.

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