For most people, April 1, 2005, was just another April Fool’s Day, but what happened to me was no joke. I remember that day like no other, as it was the start of the worst month of my life, and it would lead me to being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome. When I woke up that morning, I had a weird sensation at the tip of my tongue. By the evening, everything I touched felt ice-cold, and the sensation was in my fingers and toes. The next day my bones ached like a typical flu, but my hands felt so strange that I decided to go to a walk-in clinic. “Probably a virus,” I was told, “keep an eye and see how it progresses.” Two days later, I could barely walk. I saw my family doctor, but he said there was nothing he could do. Over the next few days I felt my body shutting down, and I was experiencing strange sensations in my muscles, like that intense tingling you get when your arm or leg is waking up from falling asleep. I repeated this description countless times to doctors who were stumped by my symptoms. The next week was the worst of all, as I could hardly walk and my breathing was laborious. I had been in and out of hospitals for testing, but still had no diagnosis. On April 14, I ended up in an emergency room after a doctor told me I probably had Guillain-Barré Syndrome or GBS. He was the only doctor who diagnosed me correctly. Even in the ER, most doctors didn’t know what GBS was. (I would later find out that the Hepatitis vaccine I took two weeks prior was most likely the reason I was struck with GBS). Mike Lacaria 002GBS is a rare auto immune disorder that attacks the peripheral nervous system, affecting 1 or 2 people per 100,000. It’s frequently severe and usually leads to paralysis. It typically takes a month to peak and how much paralysis one suffers is not initially known. I was 15 days into my deteriorating state of health and I had possibly 15 to go before I’d find out if I was going to be paralyzed. There’s no treatment during this time. It became a waiting game – every night I wondered how much worse I’d be in the morning. I saw my body go from a healthy 45-year-old who played hockey and worked out with a personal trainer at BBD, to that of an old man who couldn’t stand up or turn over in bed. But I remained optimistic, knowing sufferers can recover from the disorder. I knew I had a good chance of recovering, as I was probably in the best shape of my life, thanks to the trainers at BBD. April 27 was a good day! I felt much better when I woke up, and from that point I kept improving. My condition had finally peaked, but by then I was partially paralyzed from the waist down and I couldn’t move my legs. I convinced the doctors to let me go home – all the while I had no treatment for this condition. From there on I did physical therapy at home even though the doctors said there was no evidence it would help. Over the next month is where my previous fitness training became most useful. I had good upper body strength left and that helped me cope with my condition. I continued at BBD, concentrating mostly on strengthening my core, and thanks to the trainer, it paid off. I attended two sessions a week, sometimes three. I have to admit I’m not a gym guy, but I believe going to the gym is like taking your medicine. Looking back, being fit was the most significant attribute to my recovery. By the middle of May I had gone from using a walker to a cane, and by the end of May I was walking again, but slowly. From there, I rebuilt my strength and started a rapid recovery. I can thankfully say I’m 99% recovered. I went back to BBD, and with the help of a personal trainer, I spent the next year getting stronger. You never know what life throws at you and if I can pass on a piece of advice to those on the fence about exercising, let me coin an old cliché, “You can take your medicine now or you can take it later.” You don’t have to like exercising — staying healthy is a lifestyle choice you must make. Five years later, I’m still taking my medicine!