Guillain-Barre syndrome: The anniversary.

Recently my daughter noticed she was having trouble swallowing. This perplexed her until she realized what day it was: Jan. 21, the anniversary of the day she wound up in the ICU back in 1998.

What put her there was Guillain-Barre syndrome, an auto-immune disease that attacks the peripheral nervous system and, in Abby’s case, paralyzed her right up to her eyeballs and nearly killed her.


In “The body remembers,” Abby muses about the fact that she gets symptoms every year even though her conscious mind doesn’t mark the anniversary.

“Somehow it’s comforting to know that at least part of me is aware of the event that essentially shattered my life,” she writes. “Granted, I rebuilt it, but it was piece by piece – and in the right light, you can still see the seams.”

My strong, strong daughter. Visit her site, won’t you?

A few more reads for you, none of them about GBS:

The frugal lifestyle: Are we missing out on life? at Consumerism Commentary

It doesn’t matter how much I weigh at Identity

When more expensive is the better deal at Penniless Parenting

Do money books for women hurt women? at the Sugar Mamma Chronicles

Save your soles with regular shoe repair at Savings.com

A marriage needs three wallets at The Women’s Wallet Perspective

The roach diet, or: How I stopped worrying and learned to love the dirt on BlogHer (that’s Abby again)

6 ways to avoid the temptation to eat out at Money Ning (go on the roach diet, maybe?)

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  1. {sigh} I read that post the other day and thought about you. It was deeply affecting. How terrifying and hideous it must have been for you as well as for her.

    One of my colleagues came down with GB — first symptoms came while he was out of town at a conference. By the time he got off the plane back here, he could barely walk. It was many months before he got out of the hospital and rehab, and months more until he could come back to work. What a terrible disease!

    Abby looks good. Thank heaven she’s recovered as well as she has. I hope she continues onward and upward.

  2. Abby is strong, and it’s obvious how much you admire her. So cool to see that in a mother/daughter relationship. My mom has had chronic health problems for as long as I can remember (CFIDS, now I think called CFS) that also nearly killed her at onset, but she pulled through with the help of her parents. I’m not sure the 3 year old and 6 month old were much help… but what I’m getting at is, there is so much to admire and respect in people who have clawed their way back from devastating health problems. Thank you for continuing to share Abby’s story with us.

    wait…roach diet?

  3. I hardly ever comment on blogs….and here I am, doing it twice in three days on yours. Couldn’t help myself. A much-loved uncle got GB, and spent nearly a year with his eyes stitched shut. (So they wouldn’t dry out — he couldn’t blink.) He could move a big toe; that was about all. He eventually regained enough use of his body to stiffly use a walker, and he could move his arms. He also learned to re-use the computer, typing with one stiff finger at a time. The effects never really left him for the next three decades.
    He had the loveliest, deep baritone voice before he got sick — and that’s what I hope to hear again someday, that voice.
    Did you know that some experts now think Franklin Roosevelt had GB, not polio? Go see the Wikipedia entry:


    • Donna Freedman

      @Cindy: I’d read a newspaper article suggesting that FDR had GBS. It sounds likely but of course they’ll never know.
      Abby was “lucky” in that she was young, and thus recovered function a lot more quickly than some people. (She was so young and got it so badly so quickly, in fact, that there was a parade of neurologists in and out. Everybody wanted a look at such an unusual case.) At the time her recovery seemed agonizingly slow to us. We now know better.
      As for her voice: During the period of weaning her off the ventilator, they could put a valve on her trach and allow her to speak, haltingly. The first time, the respiratory therapist told her to take a breath in, then speak on the out-breath.
      Abby tried and nothing happened.
      The therapist said, “Say ‘aaaahhhh.'”
      Abby breathed out, “Aaaahhhhh.”
      “OK, now try saying something.”
      Abby took a breath, then spoke for the first time in a couple of months: “Hi, Mom.”
      Everybody in the room got tearful. Me especially.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  4. In my opinion, it’s your money, you do what you want with it. My only advice is to never lend money that you can’t afford to lose. But you probably already know that, don’t you? ;o)
    I wonder why Monica called you in her time of need. Doesn’t she know anyone else to turn to or has she tapped everyone else out?
    I haven’t lent anyone a significant amount of money since I made the mistake of lending my ex-stepdad $500 to help start his auto body shop, which closed in less than a year. I was a teenager at the time, my judgement’s improved since then.
    I’ve always been pretty tight with a buck, but since the economy went down the drain, I’ve become even tighter. If someone, friend or relative, called to ask for an emergency loan, even if their car was being repossessed, I’d have no problem turning them down. I simply don’t have that kind of money to risk.

  5. Hi Donna, the link to the Consumerism Commentary piece seems to be malfunctioning. I can’t open it.

    I too wonder whether your friend has already exhausted many other avenues of help before she called you. It would be very hard for me to say no, especially to a family member.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Eme: The link works on this end. Try it again?
      My friend didn’t have any other avenues. I’m it. Which scares me.

  6. You’re both strong women. I’ve been reading your articles for years, Donna, and I admire you. Your daughter had a wonderful role model, and as a person struggling with a disorder myself, I admire her for her ability to keep her head up in the face of adversity. It’s hard.

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