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An Unexpected Opening to a Deeper Gratitude: Guillain Barre Syndrome

Every time I have seen a reality show on tv where people must try out for a spot or just perform a sort of audition, they always have a background, a sympathy story of sorts. When I was little, I always wanted to go on these shows and I would pretend I was being interviewed beforehand, but I never had a sincere story to tell besides the fact that I grew up in Florida with an amazing family and a roof over my head. And this may seem like I am being braggy or ungrateful, but doesn’t it just seem so odd that even as a child I knew that to make yourself known or to draw attention, you need some sappy story to explain your purpose.

But as I have grown older in my teenage years and had to plan for college and start to think of life outside the bubble of my childhood home, I have become more conscious of how lucky I am to have a stable home, family, and life in general. But even though I came to terms with that, I still would let the trivial things in life blow over my head. And by trivial things, I mean being able to walk down the stairs when I wake up in the morning to make my own coffee and sit with my parents on the back porch. I mean standing on my tiptoes to reach the cup on the top shelf. I mean showering by myself.

These are automatic movements done every morning by habit, and although it may seem irrelevant to feel gratitude towards these simple physical movements, it is not, I promise you.

In July of this year, I went on a trip to the Florida Keys with my family and I also brought along my best friend as a farewell trip for college. It was amazing, the weather was perfect. We tanned, went on the boat, swam in the pool, ate delicious food, shopped at cute boutiques... my best friend and I even got matching tattoos. But three quarters of the way through the trip, I started to feel what you could call odd.

I had a constant headache which was irregular for me, my hands and feet started to tingle nonstop like they were asleep, my calves formed temporary permanent Charlie horses, and soon my whole lower body had constant numbing sensations. In short terms, I could not walk without pain in my whole body or without looking like I had two broken hips. I held in my panic; I woke up at dawn every morning and sat in silence in the living room contemplating whether this was something to be worried about. Finally, I broke down in tears to my mom two days before the trip was over and admitted that I was in pain.

We thought of everything, and keep in mind that my family has no medical history and no underlying conditions. Maybe it’s a B12 deficiency? Maybe it’s caffeine withdrawal? Maybe it’s my body in shock from taking a break from my everyday gym routine. Either way, we went home a day early from the trip and my mom and I headed to the emergency room at midnight in my hometown.

Four hours into waiting, we called it quits and went home. The next day we went to a pediatric emergency room, where we waited an hour and a half just for what seemed like a primary care checkup and as a result that I had a severe sinus infection. Great! Although I have had sinus infections before, and never had a numb lower body as a symptom, I smiled for the outcome and enjoyed the rest of the day with my mom relived with the diagnosis. However, the next day rolled around and I could not walk without holding onto walls or someone’s hand. I went school supply shopping with my best friend, and when we got back home, I fell trying to go up the three-inch step at my front door. So that is when we decided to head back to the hospital to wait out the emergency room line again.

My mom and I waited six hours in the ER, and finally got back to a room. We stayed overnight in the ER and lived off some goldfish and ginger ale, and then the next morning got admitted to an actual room on the fourth floor. Room 401, one of the only rooms in the only wing of the whole hospital that was COVID free. After a CT scan, X-Ray, MRI, and Spinal Tap, I was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome.

I spent a week in the hospital for treatment. I had one visitor a day, and no overnight stays. At night I had blood drawn three times, and when no nurse was taking my vitals, I sat and wondered why me. I never showed pity on myself, I was complimented for my positivity on the situation, but when you look at social media and see everyone out partying, or you walk down the hall with a walker while the sweet elderly man is fast walking past you; it hits a little hard.

So that is the mainframe of the story, after I got out I had to retrain my muscles to walk properly, and I still cannot run, but we are working on it!

I want to refrain from any sympathy, because I do not like attention drawn to myself and this situation has completely caused that. I am very independent, I enjoy alone time, and in summary having people constantly helping me was beyond sweet, but I lost all sense of individuality in that brief time, besides when I would write or read. And when I had those times to think and write, I realized the little things in life that I now show much more gratitude towards, like how I mentioned in the beginning, are based on this experience which is what I like to call it.

I take less offense to comments, I try to walk around random pretty areas everyday, I make my own meals, I take my time to pamper and shower, I do not go on my phone as much. Overall, I’m just in such tune with myself compared to two months ago. I’m not focused on making a ton of new friends or finding the boy of my dreams, but rather getting to know myself better and learn how to be content on my own through mindfulness. I have a deeper love for my family and the resilience they show, I have connected with my close friends in fathomless ways, and I do more things for myself.

My gratitude to the little things, that is the biggest outcome of this experience. So, although this could be used as my sappy story, I insist it only be spoken on as an experience and how I have benefited from it and what still needs to be internally learned within myself, which I will write on more in future posts.

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