Two days later I got hit with the early symptoms of GBS, which I described in my previous post, and the next morning found me flat on my back in a hospital gurney. I had asked the EMTs who drove the ambulance to take me to Mount Sinai, which was close to where I lived in East Harlem. I could feel my legs; they were there all right-- but I couldn't move them. I could wiggle my toes just a little bit. It was like being a puppet with loose, dangling legs, except mine were weighty and unwieldy. The doctors did tests to see if I could feel--running something wooden like a golf tee over the bottom of my foot, for example--and I felt it. The movement in my legs just was not there anymore.
After being visited by several doctors who asked about my symptoms including my recent flu-like episode with the stomach problems, a young resident came in and gave me a provisional diagnosis. "We think you may have Guillain-Barre Syndrome," he said. "It's a difficult disease, but about 80 to 90 percent of patients make a full recovery." What happens to the other 10 to 20 percent? In other words, a 10 to 20 percent chance I'd be paralyzed for life?!?!?
"Don't tell me what happens to the other 10 to 20 percent," I said. "I'd rather look on the bright side for now." Images ran through my mind of paralyzed people (since I didn't really know any paralyzed people personally, most were imaginary or conceptual to me: Christopher Reed; Super Man left a quadriplegic, Professor X in his levitating chair-- strangely all seemed to be super heroes divested of some of their former powers and strength. Only now, almost seven months later does it occur to me that although Professor X lost his physical powers he retained and even honed his mighty psychic ones!) Would I end up like them? Would I spend the rest of my life in a chair? What would life be like as a handicapped person? Could I possibly handle it? These thoughts all rushed together in a blur of images and chain of fears. There was a sense of vertigo--of being on the edge of the abyss--but also a sense of acceptance; here I was, it was happening, and there was nothing I could do about it.
TO BE CONTINUED