Imagine, if you will, the worst disease nightmare scenario that you can picture. One where your mind is intact but your body won’t move. At its worst, you can’t so much as lift a finger, or even breathe.
The name of this disease is Guillain-barre, you know the nightmare that most of us have heard about because its connection to the 1976 swine flu shot. By mid-December hundreds of those immunized had contracted this most horrifying of diseases.
Guillain-barre is a strange disease because it is as if the body turns on itself. Normally, when you are invaded by a foreign antigen, your body will make anti-bodies against it. In this case the immune system treats the substance that insulates the nerves, the myelin, as an antigen and attacks it with anti-bodies.
Why does the part of the body designed to protect us from disease, turn on us? No one really knows for sure, but we know it is happening enough that Scientists are working on the mystery around the clock. We do know that often a cold, sore throat, or an intestinal issue often precedes Guillain-barre (pronounced ghee-lan-bah-ray). Or, it happens after seemingly unrelated events, such as surgery, a bug bite, or injections like the swine flu shot.
How much does stress, over-work, and anxiety play? We don’t know, but we do know that people who stay happy and work on their stress and anxiety have less incidences of disease over all. So, it is wise to keep this in mind while figuring lifestyle preferences. One can always benefit with meditation, exercise, and anxiety reduction techniques.
One of the first signs of an attack of Gullian-barre is a numbing of the feet and hands. It then progresses, rather rapidly to other parts of the body. The affects are rapid because the attack is carried on by a tireless enemy which seem never to sleep, they rage on 24 hours a day.
Guillain-Barre can immobilize a victim so completely that they cannot speak, cannot breathe, and it seems as if they will die. Then, Zap! suddenly, the patient begins to improve and sometimes they seem completely healed. It is as if they are given a second chance at life.
Lets ask science. Well, they don’t know. They can give you statistics, but they can’t really explain why. It is like one of the science fiction medical mysteries. A scientist knows that some victims never recover completely, 5-15% suffer long term disability, while 35% suffer mild, non-debilitating disability, over 50% recover completely, and about 5% of people die.
The odd thing about Guillain-Barre is that it seems that the disease must run its full course of debilitation before a person begins to get better. This course of debilitation is known as its “Maximum disability,” which mean different things to different people. One person’s maximum disability might be tingling or weakness in the limbs, and at its worse it can mean total paralysis, with serious complications.
People who have experienced Guillain-Barre describe the most terrifying experience imaginable. Yet, they also describe the great relief they feel when they are given the gift of “life” back. Some make great strides to improve their lives, and make their second attempt at life meaningful and filled more with joy, such as spending more time with the children, and appreciating relationships more.
I know it is easier said than done, but if you suspect that you might be having an attack of the Guillain-Barre virus, seek medical attention immediately. The sooner your doctor knows what is happening, the better chance for recovery that you have. Try not to panic, and realize that most cases don’t experience the “maximum disability” of total paralysis. Most cases of Guillain-Barre appear to run its course, and you will be up and running in no time, with a new perspective on the wonders of life.
Though difficult, keeping a positive attitude is probably one of the most important things you can aspire to do for this, or any condition.
Other coping strategies are:
Follow a healthy diet that focuses on a balanced diet especially [fresh organic] fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, whole grains and salads with a variety of colorful vegetables. Eating well helps you to be more energetic and can boost your mood.
Find a good physical therapy program
Pain medication to help with residual pain
Seek emotional support from family and friends
Seek support from a group of people who have experienced Guillain-Barre also
*I am not a doctor, please consult your physician if you need diagnosis and assistance with Guillain-Barre
Michaud & Feinstein “Fighting Disease”