Faith - And Sound Therapy - Work Miracles for Guillain Barre Victim
It's a disease with no known cure and a variety of debilitating symptoms. It is also one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed maladies around. It's even hard to pronounce.
Few people understand these facts better than Gladys Maldonado. Actually, when she was admitted to Lowell General Hospital on August 22, 2005 complaining of leg weakness, she undoubtedly had no clue that she would become an expert on Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. But much to her dismay, she became quite familiar with the disease and its symptoms. For the 49-year-old Maldonado, this include a Pandora's box of problems: no movement in her legs, extremely limited movement in her arms, virtually no trunk control, and, perhaps worst of all, a great deal of pain.
So restricted was Maldonado's mobility that almost everything she did required the use of a Hoyer lift, a specialized transfer for people who can no longer stand or support themselves in a sitting position. She also was experiencing difficulty in swallowing. Guillain-Barré had even affected Maldonado's oral motor skills, symbolized by the half-smile that had replaced her full grin.
A woman of strong religious convictions, Maldonado maintained her faith that everything would somehow work out. Of course, that faith would have to be accompanied by intense therapy, which is known to lessen the severity of the illness and accelerate the recovery in most patients. That therapy was provided by New England Rehabilitation Hospital (NERH) in Woburn, Massachusetts, where Maldonado was admitted on September 2, 2005.
Once at NERH, therapist Andria Camelio pushed Maldonado through a variety of trunk stability exercises, as well as mat-based physical therapy. The therapy was not easy for either party. For Maldonado, it was physically and mentally exhausting; for the therapists, the need to communicate with their Spanish-speaking patient through an interpreter made the sessions more challenging than normal.
Still, the therapy began to yield significant improvements in a very short time. In fact, the improvements Maldonado showed were close to a medical miracle. In just three weeks she was able to sit unsupported on the mat. The Hoyer lift became unnecessary, and she graduated to a less labor-intensive slide transfer. A few weeks later, she was walking with a cane, and the strength in her legs has almost fully returned. If her progress continues at this pace, Maldonado will even be able to fulfill her wish to get up at the podium of her church and tell the congregation about her experience.
Strong faith and high-quality therapy. For Maldonado, this powerful combination has been nothing less than a gift from above.