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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Local man recovers from rare ailment

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mercy Hospital occupational therapist Sara Hunt works with patient Bruce Holt, who is recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome.(Submitted Photo)
It was early June 2011, when Bruce Holt, of Mound City, woke to soreness and swelling in his leg at about 3 a.m. As many would do, Holt called the doctor the next morning, who advised Holt to get a sonogram to make sure there were no blood clots in his leg.

"I went to Olathe Hospital and they checked it out and said they didn't know what it was," Holt said.

Doctors at the hospital sent him home with some pain pills and he returned to Mound City.

"I thought maybe I had a thorn in my leg because I had been cutting hedges," Holt said. "So I went home and the next morning I got up and I noticed I was having a hard time lifting my arm. It just didn't feel quite right and my leg was still hurting, so I called them again and they said, 'maybe you better go back to the emergency room and let them check you out.'"

So the next morning, Bruce and his wife Meg made the trip to Olathe for the second time in two days, arriving at about 10 a.m. By 2 p.m. that same day, Holt was paralyzed from the head down.

"I couldn't move a thing; this all just happened four hours," Holt said. "I had no idea what it was. My doctor in Olathe checked my reflexes and said he was 100 percent convinced it was Guillain-Barre. I had never heard of it. It took me two weeks to even learn how to say it," Holt laughed.

Information provided by Mercy Hospital, from healthwise.org, said Guillain-Barre Syndrome is "a rare neurological condition that paralyzes a person's body quickly, most often within 24 hours, with no prior symptoms. It causes muscle weakness, loss of reflexes, and numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, face, and other parts of your body. Experts don't know what causes GBS. They think that the nerves are attacked by the body's own defense system (the immune system)."

How and why Holt contracted Guillain-Barre is still a mystery.

"Still to this day, I don't know why I got it," Holt said. "A lot of people get it from flu shots or tetanus shots, but we don't know why I got it."

What Holt did know was that his recovery would be a long, arduous one.

"After two months in the hospital and an inpatient facility I was released, however, I knew that I still faced months of therapy," Holt said. "Luckily, I found Mercy Health for Life in Fort Scott."

Holt became very familiar with Mercy, working closely with therapists there.

"For the next 14 months I went to Mercy three days each week where my physical therapist, Janet Smith, and occupational therapist Sara Hunt always met me with a smile and a new challenge," Holt said.

Holt said their knowledge, dedication and encouragement were crucial to his recovery. But his praise for his care team didn't stop at the two therapists.

"The reception staff was friendly and kept my schedule current and Mercy drivers came right to my house and transported me at no charge," Holt said. "Although I would never wish months of therapy on anyone, if it were ever necessary, I would without reservation recommend Eric Baldonado and his team of professionals at Mercy Health for Life to assist you in your recovery."

Holt showed his appreciation by catering lunch for his therapists and support staff on Wednesday at Mercy.

Holt said the hardest part of his recovery was coming off the pain pills he had been prescribed.

"They (doctors) had me on so much narcotics and I just went cold turkey," Holt said. "I said, 'That's it; I'm not taking any more.' I went four days without going to sleep. It was tough. I had hot flashes and every kind of side effect you could think of. It was wild."

Holt said he realizes the medication was a necessity because of the pain, but he was happy to be rid of them.

"I don't have much pain now," Holt said. "Just when I break my muscles down. I work out every other day and they get sore, so the next day I rest and then I break them down again."

Holt still gets emotional talking about his recovery, but manages a sense of humor about it all.

"I remember the first time I tried to feed myself mashed potatoes," Holt laughed. "They went right in my ear. I'll never forget that."

Holt's efforts have paid off, from a man who was paralyzed to a man that is still showing constant improvement with his bench presses.

"It's one day at a time," Holt said. "That's all you have to do."

Holt said he feels good now and is about 60 percent back health-wise.

"Everything is pretty good, except for my feet," Holt said "My mylenation (insulation around nerves that allow signals to be sent from the brain to muscles) hasn't come back in my feet and that is why I have to walk with a cane. But it improves all the time. When they started me here, they had to put me in a sling. I couldn't stand or anything."

He said that most of the time, Guillain-Barre patients are on a respirator for three months, but he was lucky enough to avoid that because it was caught early.

Holt said he embraces each little bit of progress he makes.

"Three months ago I was here and I couldn't get the 45-pound bench press bar off my chest," Holt said. "Yesterday I added 10 pounds to it and I did three sets of 15 without stopping."

Hunt, Bruce's occupational therapist, said Holt was a fun patient to work with.

"He's always motivated, always optimistic, no matter what and always willing to try something new," Hunt said. "Sometimes we had our little bumps along the way, but he always knew we were trying to get him to where he wanted to be."

"They were big bumps," Holt added with a laugh.

Although Hunt has read about Guillain-Barre and met patients recovering from it, she said Holt is the first person she has worked with who actually contracted GBS.

She has been working with Holt since the day he first arrived at Mercy.

"With him it's almost a complete 180 of where he was when he first came in," Hunt said. "He was wheelchair bound, he needed help dressing himself and moving his arms, legs and everything. Now he runs around like he owns the place."

Hunt said there is more research into GBS now than in prior years because more people have heard about it.

"But it's like one in 100,000 to 150,000 people that get it, so there wouldn't be much research on something like that," Holt said.

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