A fitness enthusiast was struck by a rare condition that left her having to tape her eyes shut. Former network engineer Delilah Corkery, 47, said she "lost pretty much her whole body" when she was struck by Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) following an initial bronchitis in February last year.
The woman, from California, USA, had hoped she was getting over the worst of that illness when she started to notice peculiar symptoms developing.
In March 2018, Delilah went out for a meal with some friends when she noticed that the food tasted bland and she couldn’t actually distinguish any taste from what she ate.
Recollecting her experience, Delilah said: "I was diagnosed with bronchitis two weeks prior to my first symptoms, and they say a respiratory illness can trigger GBS," said Delilah.
"I was out eating dinner and all the food tasted bland, like there was no taste. I also felt really hot. But when I got home that night, I washed my hands and the water was icy cold.
"I then tried hot water and it was burning hot and touching anything metal felt like fire.
"The next day, I told my partner that I thought it was time to go to the hospital.
"I was there for seven hours sitting in the waiting room and when they finally saw me, it was for five minutes and they diagnosed me with vertigo, because I told them it was getting harder for me to walk, gave me some pills and sent me home."
But when she woke up the next day, Delilah was in excruciating pain and could no longer walk unaided.
She was immediately sent to the hospital, where staff ran stroke tests, X-rays, MRI tests, blood tests and a spinal tap, which indicated a raised level of proteins, which is indicative of Guillain-Barr Syndrome (GBS).
Delilah started on an IVIG treatment immediately, but by this time she had lost the function in her legs, arms, face, including her eyes, and her bowel.
The extent of Delilah’s case meant she couldn’t even blink but could still see, so she would have her eyes taped shut for eight hours every night for the following three months.
"I lost my taste and feeling in my fingertips, then my legs and arms, then my torso, my ability to control when I went to the bathroom and my ability to eat, breathe and even blink. I was stuck, mentally aware but had no control, all in the space of five days.
"I lost pretty much my whole body, including my face. They put these bubble patches on my eyes during the day so that my eyes stayed moist, but they had to tape them shut at night.
"They had to give me sleeping medication and anti-anxiety medication every night because I felt paranoid. I was always wondering if someone else was in the room as I couldn’t see anything."
Delilah explained how she had to tape her eyes shut for eight hours every night, and do so for three months after she left rehab.
"I was intubated twice. Initially for five days, then they tried to take it out thinking I was breathing fine, but when they took it out, I felt like I was suffocating.
"I kept telling them I couldn’t breathe but they just told me to relax until I yelled, and the doctor asked them to do a blood test.
"That was when they saw my CO2 levels were high, so they immediately put it back in for six more days."
After three weeks in hospital, Delilah was then transferred to a rehabilitation centre where she spent almost a month regaining her strength. She then returned home at the end of April, after seven weeks of intense treatment.
Delilah spoke about the difficulty of going from being such a physically active person to not being able to blink or go to the toilet herself.
"I had to be moved by the nurses every few hours because I couldn’t control anything. Going to the bathroom was the worst because GBS affected all my nerves, including my bowels.
"I had to be lifted in and out of bed to use the toilet with an electronic lifting device. I was refusing the pain medication they were giving me because it made me feel sleepy and loopy, so I was in a lot of pain.
"Just the slightest touch of my legs would be extremely painful. If they lifted my leg it would just drop to the side. So finally, I asked if there was something else I could try and they gave me something called Lyrica.
"The day I started taking Lyrica, I was able to slightly lift my knee to my chest using my arms. It was the most amazing feeling and I sat there with my knee up to my chest for an hour.
"A few days later, I turned myself over onto my stomach. Then every day after that, I’d work with my physical, occupational and speech therapists, determined to walk out of there in less than six weeks.
"I learned that I’m stronger than I thought. I don’t take anything for granted and I’m filled with gratefulness.
"I sometimes have to stop and remember all that I’m doing and experiencing at that very moment is special.
"GBS is a serious condition and can happen to anybody, no matter how healthy you are.
"One thing that I had on my side was my good health which is what all the therapists attributed my quick recovery to."
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