From surviving to thriving with Guillain-Barré syndrome


In February 2015, following a viral throat infection, Jemma suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome. Within hours, she went rapidly downhill and became paralysed – her body had effectively shut down and she was unable to breathe or move.

Guillain Barré is a rare and serious condition of the peripheral nervous system and occurs when the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

Initially Jemma went to her local A&E, before being transferred to the ITU department of Royal United Hospital, Bath. She spent 10 weeks there and responded well to the immunoglobulin treatment. In April 2015, Jemma was then admitted to Glenside for a ten week intensive rehabilitation programme. On admission Jemma used a wheelchair and frame, plus assistance with personal care.

The physio sessions concentrated on getting Jemma walking properly. The physio team supported Jemma to undertake exercises to reawaken the nerves to get the muscles moving again. Jemma moved from the frame, to walking with a stick and now to walking independently. Jemma found that her leg muscles were painful when she started to use them again, as even with a short time of immobility she was shocked how her legs had turned to skin and bone. Jemma has particularly enjoyed the hydro therapy sessions due to the warmth of the water and the feeling of weightlessness which enabled her to move freely and easily once again.

The occupational therapists worked with Jemma and developed strategies for her to relearn how to use the shower and other skills for her to carry out her own personal care independently.

As Jemma has become more independent during her period of rehabilitation, she has been able to appreciate the onsite walks round the Glenside grounds, trips out into the community and also rekindled her artistic skills during the weekly art activity group.

Prior to her illness, Jemma was extremely fit and healthy, being a Naturopathic nutritionist and enjoying several pastimes including Pilates and yoga. Being so fit beforehand definitely helped Jemma’s body to rebuild itself and Jemma is now looking to be discharged home, way in advance of the predicted “home by Christmas” expectation that was set when she was first admitted to Glenside.

Jemma says of her time at Glenside “My successful rehabilitation has been helped by the professional and caring support of the whole staff team, but particularly the physio team who you can tell are extremely experienced. Even the beautiful setting of Glenside with its mature grounds and range of communal spaces has made a difference to getting me fit and supporting my recovery. It doesn’t feel as if you’re in a hospital.”