Woman's battle with Guillain-Barre Syndrome

FORMER sufferers of a rare and terrifying illness, which causes paralysis throughout the body, are hoping to raise more awareness of the disorder among both the public and the medical profession.

Guillain-Barr Syndrome (gbs) awareness week begins on Monday, and former sufferer Sybil Loxam from Warton, hopes it will reach out to people who have had, or still suffer from, the illness.

Just 1,500 people a year are diagnosed with the disorder, meaning many doctors will never see a patient with it.

Sybil, now 72, was on her honeymoon in India in January 1996 when she was taken ill.

"I'd had a sore throat before I got married and then I got flu-like symptoms, but I had so much to do I didn't have time to be ill," she said.

In India, Sybil and her new husband George had booked a trip to the Taj Mahal when Sybil's sore throat returned.

"As I came to get off the coach my knees gave way and I fell down the steps," she said. "That was the first sign that anything was wrong.

Cold

"The following morning we got up and I was freezing cold and I just

didn't feel right, my hands and feet were dead. Then the next day my legs wouldn't work; it just steadily got worse as the paralysis worked its way up my body."

A neurologist was called to the couple's hotel, and Sybil was taken to hospital, where Guillain-Barr Syndrome (GBS) was diagnosed.

She remained in hospital in Goa for three weeks before being flown home by air ambulance.

During that time her son Doug and daughter Helene were flown out to India because the doctors didn't think she'd survive.

"Fortunately, there was a doctor there who knew what it was," she said. "It's so unknown that a lot of doctors will never see cases of it."

Back home Sybil remained in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for several weeks, learning how to use her arms and legs again as the paralysis slowly wore off.

She realises she was one of the more fortunate GBS sufferers.

"It varies from person to person as to how they are affected," she said.

"It was very frightening; I was paralysed to the neck, I couldn't do anything. You just think you are going to die and the pain is indescribable. You just don't know what's hit you, it's so rapid.

"But I was lucky, and I fought it because you have to fight. Some people are in hospital for two years with it, and so determination is very important."

Light

Sybil now helps out other sufferers as a member of the north west GBS support group, which meets in Bilsborrow every three months.

"I really feel the support group is very important," she said.

"When I was in the RLI a lady from Silverdale came to see me who had GBS 10 years before, and she was like a light at the end of the tunnel.

"I really feel I am doing something worthwhile being part of the support group."

n To find out more about GBS support groups, call 01529 304615.