‘It was like being in a horror film’

James Stroud.
James Stroud.

A man struck down with a rare condition was left paralysed but awake – ‘like being buried alive in a coffin’.

James Stroud was trapped in his own body after developing the unusual Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)

James, from Caton, near Lancaster, said: “I was paralysed but fully aware, and the best way I can describe it is like being in a horror film – like being buried alive in a coffin.”

The busy and active 38-year-old went to work as usual on June 5, despite experiencing pins and needles sensations in his fingertips and general fatigue.

James, a relationship banking manager for Royal Bank of Scotland, put it down to flu like symptoms and even visited the gym for a workout.

The next day, June 6, he went to work again and started to deteriorate fast.

He said: “My neck and shoulders were aching, and then I couldn’t eat. I went home then I woke up the next morning and I felt like I’d had a stroke.”

His wife Nicola said James went to the A&E department at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary on June 7.

She said: “He was admitted to hospital as his speech was becoming slurred, increased stiffness in his neck and difficulty in swallowing.

“After two days in ambulatory care, his condition deteriorated even further and he was rushed to Preston hospital where he was examined by a neurologist.

“He was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).”

GBS affects around one in 100,000 people but James’ particular strain – Acute Motor Axonal Neuropathy – affects one in a million. Within hours of diagnosis he was transferred back to the RLI and placed in intensive care. He was in advanced stages of respiratory failure and was put on a ventilator. He spent six weeks in intensive care and six on ward 37, and was tube fed for ten weeks and could only communicate via an alphabet board.

James described his experience as far as he could remember it: “In intensive care I was having bad hallucinations because of the drugs I was on.

“I was paralysed but fully aware, and the best way I can describe it is like being in a horror film – like being buried alive in a coffin. It was just horrendous. I was fully aware, but I couldn’t do anything, and because of the drugs I was hallucinating badly. I lost two and a half stone in five weeks.”

If left untreated and not dealt with properly, the disorder is life threatening, but Nicola said that the care and professionalism James received from nurses at The RLI saved his life.

She said: “I just want to commend the amazing efforts, professionalism and level of care my husband received, the medical staff saved his life. My family and I practically lived at the hospital for the duration of James’s stay and saw first hand how hard the staff work.

“From my observations, when the level of care was compromised, it was due to stretched resources and quite literally staff being run off their feet. I want to give a voice back to all those amazing, wonderful people that work tirelessly to help save lives and make people better.”

James added: “I just want to say a big thank you to the nurses.”

James said his speech wasn’t yet 100 per cent perfect and his grip in his right arm wasn’t back to full strength, but that he hoped to be fully recovered by Easter.

James’ family recently held a casino night at The Scarthwaite Hotel near Caton, which has so far helped to raise £4,500 for the GBS support group and ward 37 at the RLI.

To donate, go to www.justgiving.co.uk/Ryanlonghorn.