GBS is an autoimmune disorder that destroys the myelin sheath around our nerves. As this happens, the muscles those nerves control become paralyzed. It is a very rare disease. Only 4000 people each year get GBS in the United States. Some people get very mild cases while some, like me, get it more severely.
I was completely paralyzed from the shoulders down. I was on life support for ten days, in the hospital for two months and continued to need occupational therapy and physical therapy for a full year after that. I had to relearn how to do everything, walk, feed myself, scratch an itch, everything!!
In the old days, I would have died within the first week, but with modern medicine it is survivable. Before he sent me into the Intensive Care Unit, my neurologist told me this wouldn’t kill me but as you can imagine I was terrified!
Here are some trite sayings that may have lost some meaning in their overuse:
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
- This was a life changing experience.
- Life is short. You never know how much time you have.
Let me tell you, those sayings couldn’t have been more true when it came to my experience of overcoming GBS.
When you are in the ICU and on life support, all you can do in your lucid moments is think. (There are no televisions, magazines or people sitting next to your bed visiting to distract you). I thought about my daughters and how I would get through this for them. I thought about my marriage and the changes that needed to be made. I thought about my family and how much I loved and appreciated them. And I thought about the direction my life was taking. I spent time thinking about what was truly important to me.
The first words I spoke to my husband when they pulled the tube out of my throat were “Things have to change.”
My top priority form that day on was to create memories for my girls because suddenly that phrase about life being short became very, very real. We started taking trips, going to concerts, spending more time laughing and appreciating each other. I made sure people knew how much I loved and appreciated them, and I got much better at not taking anything for granted. I also got much better at not being reactive to little things and less reactive to big things. Basically, this experience helped put everything in a proper perspective.
Now I take advantage of every opportunity to travel, be with family and friends, see live music and attend any event I think I would enjoy. Last week a friend told me “You really LIVE your life!” When he said this I felt such pride and joy. He was a mirror for me at that moment and I loved what I saw! So I ask you –
- Are you really LIVING your life?
- Do you enjoy how you spend your time and the people you spend it with?
- Are you excited about your journey
- Are there things in your life that need to be changed for you to be the best version of yourself?
I encourage you to take a good, honest look. If there are changes to be made, start the process of making the change. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I can promise you it is worth it. Please don’t wait too long because, as the saying goes (and it bears repeating), “Life is short and you never know how much time you have!”