ORANGE PARK, Fl – Imagine one day you're heading on a camping trip and the next you can't even walk. It happened almost that fast for a local man who contracted a virus that caused his body to attack itself.
After visiting several local hospitals and doctors, he finally got the right diagnosis.
Jim Reed had a very rare condition that only affects one in 100,000 people called Guillain-Barre.
It starts with muscle weakness and can cause paralysis if not treated in time. Reed knew something was seriously wrong when he could barely walk.
His entire life changed back in October when he was headed out on a camping trip and felt tingling and lightheaded. He canceled his trip, and instead within 24 hours he was in an emergency room.
"The combination of not being able to move my legs and the combination of paralysis was really scary," says Reed.
After a number of tests, Reed was released without a clear diagnosis. A week later he was back in a different emergency room at Orange Park Medical Center.
"Hearing the story and the fact that it progressed, this is known as ascending paralysis. So the progression starts from the foot to affecting the walking. Then eventually in Jim's case they reach all the way up to affecting his speech," says Dr. Islam Tafish.
Tafish, at Orange Park Medical Center, was the first neurologist to evaluate Reed. He didn't take long to diagnosis him with Guillain-Barre a rare condition where a virus causes the body's immune system attacks its nerves.
"The problem is the body is acting by mistake creating antibodies against the virus and against its own self, its own nerve cell. So this is the problem. It's not the virus attacking the nerves. It's the body attacking the nerve thinking it is the virus," says Tafish.
It's not known why the virus affects some people this way, but a quick diagnosis and treatment is key to reducing the effects. OPMC is a comprehensive stroke center and that's why Reed was seen by Tafish, a neurologist, who was familiar with the syndrome and quick to treat it.
"We have a neurologist 24/7 servicing the ER. We even have a robot or we can see patients even if you are on call and far away from the hospital. You cannot have that in every place that simply would not happen. So this is why there are different kinds of hospitals, different scales of hospitals depending on what services they can provide," says Tafish.
Reed will continue to get rehab for at least a year and he's starting to get his life back one step at a time and he's so very grateful that he landed in a place that could help him get here.
"I could smile I wanted to come to therapy just standing up again for the first time was amazing," says Reed.
Signs and symptoms of Guillain-Barre syndrome may include:
People with Guillain-Barre syndrome usually experience their most significant weakness within two to four weeks after symptoms begin.