A Year with Guillain-Barre Syndrome
A year ago today, on what was supposed to be an ordinary Wednesday morning, I felt the first indications that something was wrong. My lips and my fingertips had gone numb. At that time, I shook it off as a bad night of sleep. Little did I know that 24 hours later, I’d be in the hospital emergency room, or that 36 hours later, I’d be in critical care, or that 365 days later, I’d still be recovering. It’s been a long year.
I’ve documented all my GBS related experiences on this blog over the past year. There have been nearly as many ups as downs, and you can read about them all here. I’m not going go into all of the history. What matters is where I am now.
I’m still recovering, but I’m a heck of a lot closer to normal now than I was 363 days ago when the symptoms peaked. I can feel my legs and my arms. I can walk without my legs going numb or shaking with each step. I can talk without my face going numb. I can type without my fingers going numb. My energy levels are up, and my family and I are starting to resume a much more normal life. I still have occasions where I experience some numbness, but, for the most part, I’m able to ignore them. They go away in short order with a little rest.
Since last month’s update, I’ve broken through the plateau on which I found myself stranded in November and December. I kept up with my physical therapy I started in December, and my muscles have responded. My neck, my back, and my shoulders, which suffered considerable atrophy over the last year, are very close to as strong as they were prior to my illness. I’ve dropped a couple of pounds of sedentary fat from around my waist, and have even gone in a notch on my belt. My body is really starting to feel like it’s ready to get back to it—whatever it may be.
The biggest challenge I have remaining is with my eyes, which require more frequent breaks than they used to. I used to be able to plop myself down in a chair for six hours and read a book. Now, forty minutes is my limit. Some of this may be because my vision prescription has changed yet again, and I will be getting new glasses very soon. Hopefully, that will help reduce the strain enough to allow for more normal reading patterns to resume. Computer work doesn’t seem to bother me quite as much, as my eyes move more and that reduces the strain.
One of the things I’ve done in the last two months is that I’ve added more vitamins and supplements to my daily diet to try to help my eyes, including fish oil, flax oil, B-Complex vitamins, calcium to help my toe heal, and, of course, a daily vitamin for the rest of me. The fish oil definitely seemed to changed the chemistry of my tears, which helps avoid dry-eye symptoms, but the returns have diminished over the last few weeks, and I’m experimenting with some different brands and eye-drops to see if I can get the tears flowing again.
For February, I plan on getting in some aerobic work on my elliptical machine to rebuild my stamina. I’ve been holding off on this in January, as I’ve been recovering from the broken big toe sustained in October. The wraps come off that next week, however, and I plan to slowly build back up to where I was pre-illness.
There are things that are still massively different about my life from a year ago. I used to drink at least one cup of coffee a day. Now I rarely have coffee, and if I do, it’s decaf. Caffeine just messes with my body a bit too much. I used to have the occasional beer, but that too, has fallen by the wayside.
At this time of year, there’s not a lot going on outside that demands me to spend an substantial energy. At the end of last summer, I had outsourced the lawn care. That may or may not continue once the weather improves. It depends on my energy levels and employment status. I miss cutting the grass, but not enough to jeopardize my recovery by over-extending myself.
Multiple people have said over the last few weeks that I look a lot better than I did even a couple of months ago. I attribute that to the exercise, the improved posture, and the improvement in attitude that comes with being able to do more things. While I figure my recovery will continue on for a few more months, I have few doubts at this point that I won’t soon be able to do most of the things I did before I got sick. I do know that I won’t take my health for granted in the future, and I won’t waste good days doing things that don’t matter.
It will be really nice when I can discontinue this series. Soon, blogging about what I am doing will be all the evidence people need to know that my recovery is going well.
A year to recover from something is a long time. But it’s not forever, and for that, I’m truly grateful.