Gabriella's Story

Gabriella in her Navy uniform standing with six therapists in front of the hospital lobby staircase.

After battling Gullian-Barre Syndrome, a Navy sailor sets sail again

Gabriella Kingery, 22, was on leave from the U.S. Navy, visiting her family in Oklahoma for the holidays. While there, the mother of one noticed numbness and tingling in her arms and legs.

Her symptoms persisted until she couldn’t walk. On Dec. 29, her family took her to the emergency room where her condition declined. The numbness and tingling had spread to her chest and neck. Then, she couldn’t breathe. Admitted to the hospital, doctors placed airway, breathing support and a feeding tube.

Gabriella was diagnosed with Guillain- Barre Syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. Symptoms can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing the entire body and Gabriella was experiencing those effects. She spent two weeks in the hospital before stabilizing enough for her family to consider next steps. They chose Select Specialty Hospital -- Oklahoma City for its experience with her condition.

When she arrived, Gabriella was not able to walk, talk, breathe or eat on her own.

A physician-led team of physicians, therapists, nurses and aides created a plan to get her back to her family – and to service for her country.

Respiratory therapy began working on Gabriella’s first goal –removal from or liberating her from the ventilator.  Under the supervision of a pulmonologist, the team stepped Gabriella through a series of exercises to strengthen her lungs. They also began carefully monitored bursts of time off the ventilator, allowing her lungs to handle more of the work. Within a week, Gabriella was breathing on her own.

From there, Gabriella began working extensively with physical, occupational and speech therapy to regain her ability to walk and eat again. Through balance, coordination and strength-building exercises, physical therapists helped Gabriella’s brain and body talk to one another again. Soon after, aided by occupational therapists, she began grooming and dressing herself again.

Speech therapists and dietitians worked together to assess her ability to swallow safely and resume eating. One of her best days was when her feeding tube was removed and she gradually resumed eating solid food again.

Gabriella discharged from Select Specialty Hospital on February 6, 2019, to a military in-patient rehabilitation center. She left breathing independently, eating on her own and walking with assistance.

The day before the Fourth of July, a fit and smartly uniformed Gabriella returned to thank the team at SSH-OKC. She was back to modified duty and is awaiting medical clearance to return to a full schedule.

We wish her and her family much health and success in the future.