ONE Friday Damon Beard was at home with his two children when he felt a tingling in his hands and feet.
Three days later the 37-year-old was on life support in hospital and his entire body was paralysed.
At the end of April, Damon was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) and spent four weeks sedated at Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham.
Now, 13 weeks after getting the life-threatening diagnosis, Damon is back home after learning to walk again and said: ‘I want to thank the staff at QA Hospital for saving my life.’
He and his wife Carolyn, from Titchfield, are sharing his story to make others aware of GBS, which causes the immune system to attack healthy nerve cells
Damon said: ‘In April I started feeling a bit ill and thought I had glandular fever. A few days later I got a tingling in my feet but I thought I’d just slept funny.
I have to concentrate now on getting myself better and spending time with my family.Damon Beard
‘But my hands went numb and I dropped a drink. My friend came round and saw me and suggested we call 111. After describing the symptoms, they sent an ambulance and by this point I couldn’t lift my arms. The paramedics thought I was having a stroke and rushed me to A&E.’
Two days after being admitted to hospital, Damon’s condition worsened and he was put on the critical care ward and sedated. His whole body, starting from his legs and moving to his lungs and face, was paralysed and he spent four weeks going in and out of consciousness.
Carolyn, 39, said it was a horrible time for the family but they tried to remain optimistic.
‘There was never any doubt that he was going to get better, but this syndrome affects people differently.
‘We weren’t sure how he would recover or how quickly. Some people spend years fully paralysed and others cannot move their legs, so you just never know.’
When his body had recovered slightly, Damon started physiotherapy using an automated cycling machine which moved his legs for him. As time went on, he started getting movement in his legs and could start moving the cycling machine unassisted.
He said: ‘Slowly, I started building on that until eventually I was doing all the movement myself. That was a key moment for me because when my visitors left and I would be in bed by myself, I would get quite low and sad about what happened. But the bike kept my mind off things and kept me busy.’
Every day Damon started building up his muscles. Last Thursday, after nearly 13 weeks in hospital, Carolyn and their two children Lily, five, and Noah, one, welcomed Damon home.
He said: ‘I couldn’t praise the nurses and doctors enough. They were amazing. I would be dead if it wasn’t for them.
‘During my recovery, they couldn’t do enough. Soon after waking up from the sedation I’d get frustrated at being stuck on the ward, but the staff said I couldn’t go outside because of all the machines and tubes I was hooked up to.
‘But one of the consultants spent about two hours organising for me to go outside with all the machines. I was only outside for five minutes, but it made such a big difference to me.’
The family are now adapting to Damon’s condition and getting used to some of his limitations, such as the continued paralysis of his face.
He added: ‘I am grateful to be home, but it is so different to being in the hospital. Everyday life is scary, but I am happy to be home.
‘It has been hard because I cannot lift Noah up when he wants cuddles and I have to be careful walking on the pavement in case it isn’t level.
‘But it has made me value the little things in life. Now I have to concentrate on getting better and spending time with my family.’