Life Altering But Not Life Defining…

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Guillain-Barré Syndrome and me!

I was a healthy and happy 36 year old who enjoyed life to the fullest. In February 2016, I was bitten by a mosquito and what happened afterwards was shocking for my family, friends and neighbours. Imagine what it would be like to wake up with a headache, fever, aching back and unable to walk. Later, I took a sip of water and started to choke, I was unable to swallow and terrifyingly I could not breathe. This escalated into total respiratory failure, I was rushed into intensive care and placed on a ventilator to breathe for me. The doctors said that I had contracted The Chikungunya Virus which triggered Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Within hours I was in a coma, completely paralysed, my body had swollen to more than twice its normal size and I was fighting for my life. Read about my experiences with GBS @

What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)? Guillain-Barré (Ghee-Yan Bah-Ray) Syndrome is a rare and serious auto-immune disorder of the peripheral nervous system. It is characterized by abnormal sensations and the rapid onset of weakness and paralysis of the legs, arms, breathing muscles and face. GBS affects 1 – 2 in every 100,000 people per year of any gender and all ethnic backgrounds and age groups. There is no cure and the exact cause of the syndrome is unknown. The recovery period can take a few weeks or several years. While most people make a full recovery others suffer long-term disabilities of varying degrees. Although potentially fatal, less than 5% of persons diagnosed with GBS die. How is GBS Diagnosed? A physical exam and a patient’s symptoms are often sufficient to indicate the diagnosis.

To confirm, a lumbar puncture which detects elevated levels of protein in spinal fluid and/or electrical tests of nerve and muscle function may be performed. How is GBS Treated? As the progression of the disease in its early stages is unpredictable, most newly diagnosed patients are hospitalized in an intensive care unit to monitor body functions and support breathing with a machine if required. Care involves the use of general supportive measures for the paralyzed patient and also methods specifically designed to speed recovery. Plasmapheresis (a blood “cleansing” procedure) or high dose Intravenous Immune Globulins (IVIG) are often helpful to shorten the course of GBS. Most patients when medically stable are candidates for a physical rehabilitation program to help regain muscle strength and function.

What is Neurogenic Heterotopic Ossification? Neurogenic Heterotopic Ossification (NHO) with joint ankylosis is a condition that causes the formation and growth of benign bone within the soft tissue and muscle surrounding a joint resulting in stiffness or immobility. NHO & Me! You might think my experience with GBS could not get worse but it did, when I started rehabilitation to regain muscle function, I had absolutely no movement at my hips – GBS has caused NHO in both of my hip joints.

(Image above shows healthy joints versus my joints encased in bone) NHO occurs in only 6% of all GBS sufferers but my case is significant and advanced resulting in complete immobility of my hips. Against the odds, I am determined to conquer GBS & NHO. Prolonged therapy will allow me to retrain my muscles to complete some of the basic tasks of daily living but for others and especially to walk again I need hip surgery. Kindly contribute to my medical fund and help me to receive the surgery that can make all the difference to my recovery!

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Dawn Drayton.

Contributions can be made to
Dawn Drayton @ CIBC FirstCaribbean
International Bank: Account No.: 1001095377
Barbados Public Workers
Credit Union: Account No.: 51407 S01

Telephone: (246) 234.3559

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