On Wednesday, February 7th 2018, my wonderful girlfriend, Brittany Shaw, was diagnosed with Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS) . This rare disorder occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own nervous system and muscles. The resulting paralytic effects come on very quickly, and the causes are relatively unknown.
For those who aren’t aware, Brittany became ill towards the middle of January resulting in a 6 day stay in the INOVA Alexandria Hospital. She was treated for acute gastritis and was sent home with a plethora of prescriptions and an odd tingling in her lips we thought nothing of. A week had passed and during that time, the tingling had spread to her legs and feet. We blamed it on low potassium levels and didn’t think much of it until she started experiencing severe weakness in her legs. In less then 12 hours she was completely unable to walk. On Sunday, February 3rd- Superbowl Sunday - I rushed her to the emergency room at INOVA Fairfax where she was quickly admitted.
After multiple tests, visits from different specialists, and heartache over what could be causing this paralysis, she was eventually diagnosed with GBS. GBS attacks a person's nervous system, eventually leaving the person paralyzed but able to feel excruciating nerve pain all over your body. It also takes over your muscles as well starting from your feet working it's way up to your throat. Luckily, we believed it was caught in time and she immediately began the 5 rounds of IVIG treatment and was scheduled to leave the hospital and join an in-patient rehab facility.
Unfortunately, her condition was more severe then we thought and the IVIG treatment had little effect on her condition. Brittany began exhibiting signs of respitory distress and on the morning of Sunday, February 11th, she was was intubated and placed in the ICU with a ventilator breathing for her.
I will never forget that call she made to me that Sunday morning. I was at our apartment taking a shower when my phone went off. I didn’t think anything of it until I got out and saw I missed Brittany’s call. I immediately called her back and to my surprise, I could barely understand what she was trying to say. GBS had made it difficult for her to talk but the fear in her voice was undeniable. I quickly rushed over to the hospital only to find her heavily sedated -basically in a comma like state - hooked up to who knows how many machines and with a giant tube down her throat.
She spent the next 6 days in that state but fortunately she had some of the best nurses and doctors I've ever met and her mom, bless her heart, flying all the way up here from Colorado, was by her side the entire time. Seeing your significant other intubated is something I would not wish on anyone - trust me it’s not a sight you want to remember.
During this time, she underwent 5 plasma transfusions to help cleanse her immune system and fight GBS and on Saturday, February 17th, the doctors deemed her healthy enough to be taken off the ventilator.
Hearing her voice after those 6 long days was like hearing an angel speak from the heavens and seeing her off the ventilator... words can not describe how joyful it was.
She remained in the ICU for 4 more days continuing the round the clock care until the doctors felt they had successfully stopped the progression of her condition. On February 28th, she was transferred and admitted to an in-patient rehab facility at Virginia Medical Hospital in Arlington, Virginia where she resides today, and is working very hard everyday to strengthen her muscles and regain the ability to walk (among other things).
Although we still have a very long road ahead of us, we are heading in the right direction! This has been such an emotional rollercoaster but we are optimistic that the recovery will come sooner rather than later. The recovery process for GBS can range from months to years in severe cases. We are praying that Brittany is better within the few months time frame.
I have been debating starting a Gofundme page however, many people have asked how they can help so I decided to create her a page to share her journey with all of the amazing people in our lives. If you are not able to help financially we understand and ask for you to keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
She has not be able to work throughout this process so this money raised will be used to help pay her monthly bills, increased health insurance payments, all medical bills, and any long term care that is needed for her to fully recover.
Everyone has been so amazing to us during this process. We sincerely thank you for your generosity and from the bottom of our hearts, we appreciate everything.
- Russ Carroll
- Susan Falsone
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