Guillain-Barre syndrome left mum paralysed after caesarean delivery
Though they are still unsure as to the exact cause, they believe a minor infection during the c-section was the trigger for the potentially fatal condition.
After Holly Gerlach gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby, all she wanted was to be a mother and spend time with her newborn daughter. But life had a different plan for her.
Holly talks about his harrowing experience on her blog, and in fact she’s published a book about it called “Happily Ever After: My Journey with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and How I Got My Life Back.”
Two weeks after her C-section childbirth, she began to experience a tingling sensation in her fingertips. Thinking she had a flu, she consulted her GP, who said only that she had pinched a nerve.
Later that night, however, when she got up to feed her daughter Casey, Holly’s legs gave out and she collapsed on the floor.
Her then-husband drove her to the hospital, where medics immediately identified her condition as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Though they are still unsure as to the exact cause, they believe childbirth was the trigger for the potentially fatal condition.
“I was told my case was very severe,” Holly told Mail Online. “I was in a lot of pain, so I was very sedated and my memory is quite hazy. I just remember being really scared, and depressed about being away from Casey, who was only 20 days old at the time.”
Soon she became unable to breathe by herself and was placed in the intensive care, where doctors performed two different types of blood-cleansing treatment.
Click on to learn more about Guillain-Barre syndrome
“When one of the tubes was inserted to start the treatment, it ruptured an artery.
“I was rushed down for emergency surgery, which took around five hours. Doctors told my family that I probably wouldn’t make it through the night.
“Luckily, I pulled through, but I’ve been left with a scar from just under my chest all the way down to my groin.”
For at least six weeks, Holly’s whole body was paralysed, with a tube down her throat. Unable to talk, she had to use a letter board to communicate with her family.
Meanwhile, to experience what it feels like to hold her daughter, her daughter Casey was routinely placed on her chest.
“It was very hard seeing her and not being able to properly cuddle her or talk to her,” she said. “I became extremely depressed. Sometimes I’d rather she didn’t have to see me like this because I couldn’t be the mother she needed me to be.”
On the sixth week, Holly’s was able to move her fingertips again. Slowly, she was able to recover from her condition, regaining strength and her movements. She, too, was able to learn how to breath on her own.
“At first, I was taken off the ventilator for 30 seconds to try and breathe on my own. It was so difficult, I felt like I’d run a marathon,” she said. “’Then, doctors gradually increased the time I was off the ventilator for until my lungs were strong enough.”
126 days after she’d first gone to hospital, Holly was able to practice walking with the cane; three weeks later she was able to walk unaided.
Find out what Holly looks like now on the next page
At first she struggled to carry her daughter. She also found it difficult to do chores around the house.
“Though Casey and I connected and bonded, I think all that time away from her had impacted things,” Holly admitted.
“For a while, I felt like I didn’t really know her or understand why she’d be crying. ‘She’d cry for her dad because she was used to being at home with him. It took a good eight months before I really understood her needs.”
Now Holly has significantly recovered. In fact, she now makes it a point to do to the gym on a daily basis.
“Casey and I are doing brilliantly. She knows what happened to me, and as she gets older she’ll understand more.
“I never imagined I’d start parenthood this way, but I’m still here for my daughter.”
What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?
According to Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s own nerves. Initial symptoms of the condition begin in one’s extremities, including weakness and tingling sensation.
“These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralysing your whole body. In its most severe form Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency. Most people with the condition must be hospitalised to receive treatment.”
What makes GBS even more terrifying is that doctors do not know exactly what triggers it, but doctors believe that infections play a part. Usually, GBS’ symptoms develop two to four weeks after a minor infection.
“There’s no known cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness,” said Mayo Clinic.
“Most people recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome, though some may experience lingering effects from it, such as weakness, numbness or fatigue.”
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