Brady Overcomes Paralysis, Ventilator to Return to Active Life

August 05, 2020

Brady Seigfried of Schuylkill Haven, Pa., sits outside

It started with tingling in Brady Seigfried’s arms and legs — like pins and needles — that gradually worsened and wouldn’t go away. One morning, Brady woke up and immediately had trouble walking. Another morning, he fell as he tried to get out of bed.

Brady knew something was wrong — he just didn’t know what.

After multiple doctor visits without clear answers, the Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, resident was in the hospital undergoing blood tests when he struggled to breathe. The results came back as his condition quickly worsened. Brady had his diagnosis: Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare and devastating neurological disorder where the body attacks its own nerves, causing paralysis.

Also known as GBS, the disorder left the then-22-year-old paralyzed from the neck down. Unable to breathe on his own, Brady went on a ventilator.

“It was very, very scary,” Brady said. “I was completely paralyzed. I had to come to terms that I was on the ventilator.”

‘I Got the Gift of Breathing’

While Brady’s condition improved enough to leave intensive care, he was barely conscious and unable to move on his own. Knowing he had a long recovery ahead, Brady’s family chose Good Shepherd Specialty Hospital (GSSH) in Bethlehem to wean him off the ventilator and get back to breathing on his own.

In addition to weaning off the ventilator, Brady’s muscles were severely atrophied from the temporary paralysis, making it difficult to move. The GSSH team of nurses and therapists immediately started rehabilitation by getting Brady moving, even in the smallest ways.

“When I was weaning off my vent, I had this weird gratitude toward little things,” he said. “I would wake up in my hospital bed, move my knees in and out and be over the moon that I could do that.”

Brady celebrated his 23rd birthday by staying off the ventilator for a full 24 hours — a first during his time at GSSH.

“I got the gift of breathing twice on my birthday,” Brady said.

Working Hard in Rehabilitation

Finally off the ventilator, but wheelchair-dependent, Brady was ready to advance to inpatient rehabilitation. He transitioned to Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, where the team of rehabilitation doctors, nurses and therapists tasked with getting him standing and walking on his own again welcomed — and challenged — him.

“I was really nervous because they were telling me I would do exercises every day, and I was like, ‘I don’t exercise,’ ” Brady said, laughing.

“They pushed me but never made me feel uncomfortable,” he added.

By the end of his stay at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Brady no longer needed a wheelchair to get around.

‘Amazing’ Recovery

Discharged from inpatient rehab, Brady transitioned to outpatient rehab with Good Shepherd near his Schuylkill County home. When he started outpatient, Brady needed a walker because of lingering weakness.

With stay-at-home orders in place at the time due to the coronavirus, Brady shifted to telehealth rehabilitation appointments. Eventually, as Pennsylvania began to re-open, Brady returned to safe in-person care.

Just a few months ago, he was completely paralyzed. Now, Brady lifts dumbbells, works on high-level gym equipment, balances on one leg while trying to catch a ball being thrown at him, runs and jumps. The walker is long gone.

“It is really amazing,” Brady said of his recovery from GBS and newfound fondness for exercise.

Overall, Brady said he feels back to 100 percent.

“It’s humbling,” Brady said. “I have this new sense of appreciation.”