Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using this site to keep family and friends updated in one place since updating via text and phone calls can be challenging. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement!! I will start by getting everyone up to speed on my dad's long road to recovery, and then from here on out, journal updates will likely be a bit shorter!
His story starts on May 14th, 2016. Dad was taken to Hershey Medical Center because he was showing symptoms of a stroke. He was experiencing facial droop and weakness in his arms and legs. Upon arrival and after a couple days in the hospital, he was being treated for stroke. As tests and scans started to come back, all of them were showing that he either didn't have a stroke, or the stroke was so small, it was unable to be seen on a scan. Trying to figure out what else could be going on as dad continued to slowly get weaker and weaker, the doctors at Hershey Med were leaving no stone unturned in finding a diagnosis. Days and days passed, several more tests, procedures, scans, and vials of blood were taken, and the doctors concluded dad had Guillain-Barre' Syndrome (GBS). GBS is a disorder where the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system causing varying degrees of weakness throughout the body. Much like our family, this disease is very rare :). It only afflicts one in 100,000 and no one knows what causes it or why it strikes some people and not others. Dad was given IVIG, an infusion to help give him antibodies his body was not making on its own, and was sent home to start, what we thought, was going to be a quick recovery.
Within 4 days of being home, dad was rapidly getting weaker and weaker. He was struggling to use his arms to push himself out of a chair, even with assistance from mom, and by day 4, his legs were so weak he was falling down just trying to stand up. We immediately called Hershey Med and that is what started our now 6 month hospital stay at various hospitals and rehab centers. After another treatment of IVIG, dad was sent to Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital. There he was able to get 3 hours of rehab to try and get his strength back and learn how to use what strength he had left to push himself from a chair to his wheel chair, and from the wheel chair back to his bed. He was learning how to walk and since swallowing was becoming an issues due to the weakened muscles in his neck and throat, he was being taught how to swallow food. For a few weeks, with the help of my mom and the amazing therapists, Dad worked really, really hard. He made little improvements, but slowly got weaker and weaker. Eventually, Dad had trouble breathing on his own, and was unable to swallow food and we were, once again, back at Hershey Med. At this point, the disease had totally taken over, and Dad, the very active traveler, avid boater, and car enthusiast, was on a ventilator, used a feeding tube for nourishment, and could only move normally from the neck up.
Months passed and lots of waiting and prayers occurred as days and days just passed us by. Family and friends from all around starting coming in to visit and throughout this process their support has been unmeasurable to our family, especially our mom. She has been such a person of strength and selflessness through this whole process, sitting with my dad day and night for months straight. I really have no words to describe her unfailing love and support for dad. I know their's is a love stronger and deeper than anything I've ever seen before.
There were many, many ups and downs as dad was learning to move and breathe again. Some were very high ups and some were extremely critical downs. The goal at that point was to get him off the ventilator so he could go from the long term care hospital to a rehab facility that could get him more intense therapy and get him moving again. And this leads us to where we are at now....
Please see the journal updates for more of Dads's progress. From all of my siblings, their families, myself, my family, and my parents, THANK YOU!! We could not be surviving this journey without all of you, your thoughts, and your prayers.