Guillain-Barré Syndrome Can’t Keep Macungie Woman Down

January 09, 2020

Each year, Carol Usher looked forward to planting a small tomato garden at her Macungie home.

Not feeling well after prepping the garden for planting one spring morning, Carol went for a nap. Carol’s spouse, Jennifer, arrived home a few hours later to find Carol unable to get up from the bed. After a long and worrisome struggle to move Carol at all, the pair called 911.

They didn’t know it at the time, but Carol, 74, was experiencing the effects of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder that causes weakness, numbness and paralysis in legs, arms, face and breathing muscles.

“I couldn’t move,” says Carol. “I could still talk. By the time the ambulance came, I was dead weight.”

Once in the intensive-care unit, Carol’s condition progressed to full paralysis. She was unable to breathe on her own and could only move her eyes — nothing else. It was stunning, Jennifer remembers, how rapidly Carol’s health declined.

“It was like falling off a cliff,” says Jennifer. “To see someone you love so helpless — it was heart wrenching.”

Choosing Good Shepherd for Recovery

Gradually, Carol’s condition improved to where she was ready for rehabilitation. Wanting physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) experts that were close to home, the couple chose Good Shepherd for Carol’s recovery.

“We were so grateful that there’s a world-class facility here in Allentown,” says Jennifer.

When Carol arrived at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, she was in a wheelchair, couldn’t stand on her own, couldn’t pick up or grab items and couldn’t feed herself.

Good Shepherd started rehab immediately, and Carol soon started regaining function.

From Inpatient Rehab to Outpatient

Working hard and making progress at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Carol was discharged and transitioned to outpatient rehabilitation. She has continued seeing Good Shepherd’s PM&R doctors, and receives physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, hand therapy and aquatic therapy. Carol also has used the Ekso Bionics™ exoskeleton, which helped her to walk during her recovery.

Where she once could move only her eyes and couldn’t breathe on her own, Carol can now navigate stairs, cut her own food, get out of bed and dress. In fact, Carol can walk without a cane at therapy.

“I’m still working,” says Carol. “My goal is to walk without anything full-time. That keeps me going.”

Jennifer marvels at how far Carol has come since that devastating spring morning.

“It’s why her levels of capability are so thrilling to see,” says Jennifer.

Through inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, the physicians, nurses, therapists and other Good Shepherd staff members made a significant difference in Carol’s ongoing recovery, she says.

“I’m convinced that if I didn’t go to Good Shepherd, I would still be in a wheelchair.”

-Carol Usher

For more information on Guillain-Barré syndrome rehabilitation, call 1-888-44-REHAB or request an appointment.