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Patient story with Guillain-Barré syndrome

Patient story with Guillain-Barré syndrome - Mark Howley's Story

I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome at the start of July in 2013. I'm not 100 percent sure of the specifics of the illness but basically it causes temporary paralysis. It affected all of my body, I was unable to walk, use my arms, make facial expressions or even swallow my food safely. I was intubated for a day or two and then I had  a tracheotomy, this was because there were fears it may also affect my respiratory system. I had that tracheostomy for the next two months, approximately. I spent nearly a month in ICU in University Hospital Galway, and it was during that time that I began receiving physio. Due to the nature of the illness and my age, intensive physio was essential for my recovery, so important in fact that if I didn't for whatever reason complete or recieve proper physiotherapy I'd be left with certain deficits or maladaptations. Thankfully I received the best possible physiotherapy and have made a full recovery.

  Initially, it was extremely basic stuff like moving me from my bed to a chair just to sit out for a while, in order to break up the amount of time I spent lying in bed. A machine was used to transfer me over (not really sure of the name). Even sitting out on the chair at this stage was a challenge, I would become quite tired fairly quick. This soon progressed to standing for a short time with assistance from another machine (again not sure of the name) before I sat out on the chair. Over the next few weeks this progressed gradually until I left the ICU and went out onto the ward. From then, I would go down to the physio department in a wheelchair. I started off being wheeled down by a porter but soon became more independent and started going down by myself.  At first it was one session in the morning and then a few bed exercises later on in the day that I'd do myself. Later though, I started going down to the physio twice a day as I was getting better and able to do more. You see in the beginning when I was getting the use of my legs back some of the sessions were quite painful and took a lot out of me so I would be tired for the rest of the day, however the physios were brilliant in helping me get through that. All the physios I had there were excellent, especially Tom who would've been my main physio. Tom was very aware of the fact that I was a keen footballer (I had played in an All-Ireland final in soccer in May 2013) so he was conscious of the fact that I was at a fairly decent level and that I was very eager to get back playing as soon as possible. He would even incorporate some football into my rehab, which I thought was brilliant (I would use the parallel bars to balance while passing the ball back and forth!). Over the 3 months that I spent in the hospital (UHG) and with the physios there I went from being confined to my bed, to being in a wheelchair and then finally leaving with just crutches for assistance. I'm extremely thankful for all the physios and doctors did for me there.

After leaving the Galway hospital in October I went home but I still had to attend physio sessions in Mayo General Hospital. It started off being 3 sessions a week for the first while. It was gradually reduced to twice, once and then once every other week. I had a great physio there as well, Marie, she was also conscious of what physical condition I needed to get back to. This was very helpful all round but particularly in the sense that when I was back exercising and playing football (by about February ) if I noticed something that I felt was wrong or not as it should be I could report back to Marie and she would help me rectify the problem. I'm also very appreciative of Marie's work.  My final session was in June of 2014.

In the meantime though, between leaving hospital and finishing physio I returned to school in November into my Leaving Cert year, I was eased back into that as well with the help of my physios. Thankfully I achieved the points I needed to get my first choice course (Sports and Exercise Science in University of Limerick). I also returned to playing football with my local club Castlebar Celtic in late February 2014. By around mid-April I was called up to the club's first team, which I was delighted about considering this was a feat I hadn't achieved before and because it showed that not only did I return to where had been before my illness but I had also improved.  I'm extremely confident of the fact that that wouldn't have been possible without the help of my physios.

Lately, I'm still playing with Castlebar Celtic training twice a week and playing matches most weekends. In addition to this, I also go to the gym most days.

- Mark Howley