Guillain Barre is Not My French Lover

Originally I started blogging because it felt like a good outlet for the stories that don’t come out of my mouth right.  I’m not just talking about the thoughts imprisoned in my head.  I’m also a terrible verbal communicator because there is a disconnect between thinking and speaking for me and the inputs don’t always equal the outputs. My brain is actually dysfunctional, guys. I mean, I don’t have a doctor’s note confirming it, but I think the proof is pretty clear when I go to say something and frequently what comes out is a bunch of gibberish.

E:  Wanna go to dinner?

A: Lovamsh shmu hydiderdad.

E: Sweet, I love sushi.

This problem exacerbated itself when a local restaurant tried to kill me and my body became a traitor and was all “NICE TRY UPSCALE RESTAURANT THAT BUYS MEXICAN LETTUCE COVERED IN FECES, BUT WE’LL TAKE IT FROM HERE,” and then proceeded to declare biological warfare on my neurological system over the course of a couple weeks until I could no longer walk or feel anything and as a result started acting like Courtney Love at, well, any event.

This is my story about some of that.

If you don’t like poop humor, now is your chance to exit.

Hey, you’ve been warned.

Did you know that people who appreciate bodily function humor are on the low end of the chart in adult developmental theory?

That means, like, really immature.

I learned that in graduate school.

Which obviously means I am NOT immature.

But that doesn’t explain you, so grow up already, geez.

Here we go.

One day in May about 11 years ago I was at work, minding my own business, when out of nowhere a diarrhea tornado invaded my body. At first I was like, WHOA, body, get your shit together. LITERALLY.

Things progressed to a level such that it was necessary for me to leave for the day. By the time E got home, later that night, I was laying on the kitchen floor covered in blankets, soaked with sweat, and with no recollection how I had gotten there.

Eventually it was determined that I should probably go to an urgent care because I was dehydrated and delirious. The first trip, they sent me home with a disapproving look that conveyed I was wasting their valuable time when clearly there were more important illnesses waiting in the lobby to be treated than a flu bug.

The second time I went, they told me I needed to drink more fluids.

The third time I went, I explained that I was about twelve days into it and had lost fifteen pounds. And that when I got out of bed that morning I crashed flat on my face and it took me ten minutes to get my legs to sort of cooperate by half stumbling half lurching to get where I needed to go. They took me a little more seriously and gave me an IV to treat the dehydration and told me to come back if I wasn’t better. Two days later I went back and they began asking questions, ran a couple tests, and told me to follow up with my normal doctor the next week.

The Centers for Disease Control then entered the picture because as luck would have it, the tests pointed to a kind of food poisoning that only exists in third-world countries, so urgent care legally had to report it and then the government got all nosy about it and had to try to figure out how it got here and if anyone else was affected. We will not be discussing how they obtained their samples to test for the food poisoning. WE WILL NEVER SPEAK OF IT, UNDERSTAND? All I’ll say about that is that whenever I see small cups with lids or brown lunch sacks, I feel a little fainty.

During the investigation period before they determined the source of the outbreak, I had to have an interview with the head doctor at the CDC.

CDC: Hi Alissa, we are so sorry you aren’t feeling well and can’t walk and are basically going completely paralyzed and could end up on a ventilator because your lungs will stop functioning on their own before we can get this under control, but we need to ask you some questions.

A: Shoimokay!

CDC: Well, we need detail regarding every meal you ate the week prior to getting sick, including the contents of your refrigerator and where you purchase your groceries.

A: HAHAHAHA! Groceries. That’s funny. I have creamer and a couple carrots from 1998 in my fridge. But the carrots are mostly a science experiment for my children. SHOULD I CHOOSE TO HAVE CHILDREN SOMEDAY.

CDC: Uh, okay, could you tell me, starting with that Monday, what you ate?

And then I died a little more inside and started shaking and turned red and blotchy, because, oh Lord, this was going to be embarrassing.

Why you ask? This was during a particularly ridiculous time in real estate where it was not at all unusual to work from 6:00 in the morning to well after midnight, so grocery shopping or eating anything healthy was not optional. And now I was going to have to confess to what I’d been eating, and it was beyond shameful.

A: Uhhhm. Well, Monday it was Starbuck’s and Wendy’s. And, uh, gas station for dinner. Tuesday was Starbuck’s, gas station, Taco Time. Wednesday, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, gas station. Thursday, pretty sure I didn’t eat at all, wait, nope, not true, someone at work had a birthday so I ate cake, well really just frosting, but whatever. Friday the office ordered pizza and then I finished off that cake. I actually hate cake. Wait. Do you think cake did this to me? Because so help me, I will CUT that birthday bitc…

CDC: Unlikely it was cake. What else?

A: Listen. This is tiring. It was all Wendy’s, Taco Time, the gas station across the street from work and Starbuck’s. OOOH! Totally forgot I ate at (UPSCALE CRAP FACTORY) for a client lunch on Thursday. And hold on a minute! One of the other people I was with has been sick, but not the same, not as bad.

CDC: Thank you, we’ll get back to you shortly.

Eventually they confirmed another 10  cases of food poisoning from the same place, and the (PALACE OF POOP WE DRIVE BY AND FLIP OFF EVERY MORNING), was all “Uh, no, we didn’t do this, those ten random dirty strangers brought the sickness in here, how dare they, we’re really upset about it. Oh this bleach we’re spraying everywhere? Er, nothing, it’s just further proof of how seriously we take cleanliness around here!”

But by the time they tried to notify me of this my body had already taken things far beyond food poisoning and what the other victims were experiencing and I was at my doctor and her neurologist friend saw me right away and started telling me to get my affairs in order and asking things like if I had a living will while banging me all over my body with a hammer in a desperate attempt to find a reflex (nope) and saying it must have been awful not being able to drive for the last two weeks.

Me: Uh. Driving. About that? I can still drive right?


Me: Well don’t get all bent out of shape about it, it’s not like I’m gonna hurt myself, I mean DUUUHHH, I’m dying anyway.

Dr.: Under no circumstances are you to be driving. Please call your spouse to come pick you up and take you to the hospital where we are going to admit you to the stroke ward and start an aggressive treatment of IVIG after we get some spinal fluid from you.

Me: *stink eye* FINE.

And then slowly and only by leaning against the wall the whole time and with the assistance of the nurse, I went to the lobby and called E.

A: Hi, it’s me. So, fun story, probably gonna die. Could you come pick me up?

E: I’m in Omak calling on clients.

A: Shoot. No worries. Hey, meet me at the hospital in a couple hours?

And then I got in my car and drove back to work and finished up the day because, duh, people needed to buy some houses and didn’t I know the U-Haul was already in the driveway waiting and if I didn’t do my job the whole entire world would end and people would not get paid or be able to move and basically flip a lid? Which is hilarious because by that point I was just spastically throwing my body around while trying to pretend it was totally normal. For instance, my phone would ring in my office and my arm would shoot out to grab the receiver and instead it would collide with my adding machine, which would go flying off my desk.  Or, I’d try to take some copies to the copier and I’d crash into the partitions and walls and the stack of paper would end up all over the floor.

Basically I wasn’t tricking anyone and instead they had all come to the generous conclusion that I was day drinking and on a one-way train to rehab.

I don’t remember how I got to the hospital that night. Probably E came and saved the day, like usual. And once I was admitted they sent me for a spinal tap and they were acting really weird and telling me it wouldn’t hardly hurt at all and to just remain calm and I was all “DUDE. I CAN’T FEEL ANYTHING FROM THE WAIST DOWN, IT’S FINE.”

And then they got me on the table and there was some blinky imaging thing there and they told me I could watch and E was there holding my hand because he was ready to pass out from the stress, and they turned the thing on and I was all, “Hey, is that me? What’s that?” And the tech was all “That’s your spine.”


And then I think I lost consciousness for a second because all I remember is everyone being assholes and laughing at me, the dying person.

E: Yeah. Not a worm.


E: Calm down.

Me: Don’t tell me to calm down, you don’t have a giant worm inside you! I knew it. I knew things were going to end this way. I can’t even DIE gracefully. It’s going to be ugly and painful and awkward and gross by some woman-eating-worm thing that is disgusting and horrid. I DON’T EVEN BUY TEQUILA WITH THE WORM IN IT. WTF, E!?

E: Remember that time we went to Penticton for one of my business trips and you were bored all day by yourself?

A: Great. Now we’re reminiscing. The end must be near. Please make sure I have cute underpants on. I can’t be buried in granny panties. Promise me!

E: And I came to the hotel after being in the vendor booth all day and asked what you did?

A: Are you listening? No. Ugly. Underpants.

E: And you were acting weird and said you went for a long walk and then mumbled something and left the room really quick?

A: What the hell, E, I’M DYING. Why are you trying to start a fight?

E: And then you came back in the room and sat down and then winced and shot right back up?

A: Sure, yeah, whatever, great memory, thanks. Glad this will be the last words we ever speak to each other.

E: And you lifted your shirt up and said “Look what I did today!”

A: Uh.

E: Yeah, that worm on the screen is your belly button piercing.

And then the techs turned around and tried not to show they were hyperventilating-laughing and I vowed to take that stupid annoying thing out when my hands worked again, but for now I had to suffer in embarrassment.

They wheeled me back to my private room and brought a student nurse in to insert the IV. I wasn’t paying much attention until the other nurse came in and said not nice words to the student nurse and grabbed the equipment out of her hand. She had stabbed me so many time trying to hit a vein my arm was a complete mess, but I hadn’t really felt any of it.

Then they told me a new doctor would be in shortly to do some mechanical tests on my legs. I freaked out and told E he had to go to the gift shop right away. He was so confused and disoriented by everything happening so fast, he just looked at me blankly. I whispered that he needed to go buy a razor. He looked frightened so I told him I hadn’t shaved my legs for a long time because I couldn’t get my hands and arms to cooperate and I would jump out the hospital window if he didn’t help me try to fix the situation. He shrugged and left to see what he could find.

In the meantime the good nurse came back in and said she’d be giving me Benadryl by IV because of the potential for allergic reaction from the IVIG treatment (pooled, polyvalent, IgG antibodies extracted from the plasma of over one thousand blood donors). I said okay just as E came back from his reconnaissance mission with (I kid you not) a Spanish language version of People magazine and a Coke. No razor. I barely had time to register my anger over no razor and the fact that I don’t speak Spanish when the Benadryl shot straight into my arm and I slurred half a sentence and fell asleep.

I don’t remember a lot about being in the hospital except it seemed really long and boring. I bought a bunch of stuff off the Home Shopping Network because reading was too taxing for my brain still, so all I could do was lay there and stare out the window or watch television. And being there was weird because the stroke ward had all old people on it and the nurses had trouble hiding how sad they were that such a young person was on their floor. One of them said I was the first case of Guillain Barre they’d seen in eleven years. And I had to have a physical therapist come every day to help me with walking again once the treatment started improving my condition. After I was released, I used a cane to walk (at the ripe old age of 30) for a while.

Not many people have even heard of Guillain Barre, although some guy that does the sport with the ball (soccer? hockey? synchronized swimming?) recently had it and was on the news.

My situation was far, far, FAR from bad comparative to other people who’ve had GBS. Some are in the hospital for a year or more and never lead a normal life again. I was incredibly lucky that my GP figured it out in one visit. I’m still the only case she’s ever diagnosed. That’s pretty amazing to me, I’m blessed.

Now it seems so long ago, except when I’m stressed, or it’s cold out. Then some of the lingering side-effects are quite noticeable, but still completely manageable. If you see me and I’m cold or stressed and really slurring my words and tripping over everything, know that I generally do that anyway, it’s just a smidge more pronounced in those conditions. Or I’m drunk. Probably drunk. Let’s go with drunk.

In the end, I think we can all agree that this is not a story about (TURDS R US) trying to kill me and never once apologizing or taking any responsibility for their actions. This is an inspirational story about a girl and her trusty car. A girl, who crashes every car, all the time, every time. Except this time. This time, even though it was statistically impossible NOT to crash my car, I didn’t. Because I don’t think so universe, you can’t boss me around.








2 thoughts on “Guillain Barre is Not My French Lover

  1. OMG thank you I have never laughed so hard (sorry) about GBS……my daughter was 14 for round one of GBS and 22 for round two…. the razor and the need to shave your legs was the best part. During round two, a friend of mine, a private investigator came to the hospital to bring her a walker (mind you she had never met him before) and she said..Hi thanks for the walker but my legs are in such need of a shave and my sister is willing to do it for me so….nice meeting you..and off to the walk in shower my two girls went one in a wheel chair and hospital gown and the other one in her bathing suit. We still laugh about that scene and that was 8 years ago!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>