Rosemary's Story

Taking it 'one day at a time' after Gullian-Barre Syndrome

At 80, little slowed Rosemary Ball down. She worked full-time at her daughter’s health and weight-loss company, handling billing appointments and medical forms.
Off the clock, she never missed a chance to have her hair and nails done, spend time with her eight grandchildren or enjoy an evening out with her roommate, with whom she shared an apartment.

In November, Rosemary’s leg suddenly felt heavy, as if it wanted to give way beneath her. Her head tingled with an unusual sensation, but both feelings passed. Two weeks later, Rosemary fell. Two weeks after that, her arms went numb and she fell a second time, hitting her head in the bathroom.

Rosemary picked herself up and tried to call her son, but he was out of town. She called his girlfriend, who quickly got Rosemary to the hospital.

There, scans revealed Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a rapid-onset autoimmune disorder that can affect the ability to breathe and move. She was given immunoglobulin therapy, a mixture of antibodies to treat a number of health conditions, placed on a ventilator and given airway support.

Rosemary spent two weeks at Mercy Jewish Hospital, battling the disease’s complications. She was in respiratory failure and fed by a tube because she could not eat normally. New Year passed and her children could finally consider the next steps in their mother’s care. They chose Select Specialty Hospital – Cincinnati for its expertise in ventilator liberation, nutritional support and therapeutic interventions for patients like Rosemary.

She arrived unable to walk, speak, breathe or eat on her own. She was extremely frustrated not being able to move or communicate freely. Speech therapy completed an evaluation, but she did not tolerate a special valve in her breathing tube that could have helped her begin speaking.

Occupational and physical therapy found she had little to no upper body strength. She needed two people to help her get out of bed.

However, the staff, and Rosemary’s family, helped her find patience, celebrating small wins like a bit of renewed movement in a hand or wrist. Slowly, her body began coming back to itself. A week later, she passed a swallow study and resumed eating starting with pureed food and drinking thickened liquids.

After two weeks, Rosemary’s arm, leg and core exercises paid off as her care team watched her take her first steps.

For the first time in two months, Rosemary said she felt normal. Her family continued to visit regularly and encourage her to keep going, because recovery would happen.

She put her all into respiratory therapy, working with therapists and nurses to cough, breathe deep and practice the chest exercises that would help her breathe on her own again. She was disconnected from mechanical breathing support, but continued to need airway support. Free of the machine, she began working with occupational therapy on dressing, personal care needs and bathing.

“I was in awe of the therapy staff,” she said. “They were spectacular and treated me and my family as if they were their own. Anyone could come to Select Specialty Hospital – Cincinnati and not be sorry.”

After a month with us, Rosemary was ready for the next step. She left for an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, where she will continue building strength and hope to have her airway support removed.

“I have never been through anything like this,” she said. “I have never known anyone to go through anything like this. To push myself to get moving and get up was difficult. My advice to someone going through this is to be patient, and get out of bed. Take it one day at a time.”