Saturday, May 3, 2014

How It Started

As I lay in the curtained-off area of the ER and listened to the cacophony around me, dozens of confusing thoughts and sharp fears ran through my head. What was happening to me? The weekend before I had been happily socializing at an event for students in my Master's program. Life seemed dandy. True, I had recently recovered from a nasty stomach bug whose symptoms resembled dysentery, but I was over it and back to enjoying life. I relished the opportunity to get to know my new classmates better and meet some of their significant others. I had just started the program in Mental Health Counseling a month before in September 2013 and was still getting settled in.

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.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. remembering now the day when you called me, and I could not understand what you were describing

    it has been remarkable to witness how your journey has shown, and continues to show, your inner strength. Looking forward to the next post

  3. Just began reading about Karen Horney, feminist psychology, and neo-Freudianism. Finding the subject matter fascinating, and I think womb envy may be quite real and poorly acknowledged. Interested to hear your thoughts on her work or related material