Limerickman beats rare virus

A Limerick man left paralysed overnight is back home in the loving arms of his family for the first time in 245 days.

John Mangan, from Manister, contracted Guillain–Barré syndrome. It is so rare that there are only one to two cases per 100,000 annually.

Despite this, ambulance personnel and staff in Limerick University Hospital quickly spotted the symptoms and saved his life. He has spent the last eight months slowly regaining his health in the hospital and National Rehab Unit in Dun Laoighire.

John says the virus strips all the nerves from the body and instead of the immune system fighting it, “it turns in on itself”.

Months were spent flat on his back in ICU and Ward 3A as he had no movement from his shoulders down. He couldn’t speak or breathe on his own. It all began with a “bit of a cough” on May 31. John, a carpenter by trade, was just after finishing a beautiful stone wall in front of the house he built himself. Little did he know in a matter of hours he wouldn’t be able to lift his hands.

“I didn’t feel well so around 5.30pm I said to my wife Goretti that I was going up to bed for an hour. Suddenly the room was blazing – I felt like I was on fire. I thought it was a fever so I took some paracetamol to bring down the temperature.

“Around midnight I couldn’t grip with my hands and my legs wouldn’t move. I slid out of bed and fell flat on my face. My wife and son heard the bang and called an ambulance,” said John.

He found out later that when his breathing went the next day an anaesthesiologist had to pump his chest with his hands to keep him alive.

“I remember the doctors putting the tube down to ventilate my lungs and I could find the relief,” said John, who credits ambulance staff, Dr Brian Casserly, Dr Elijah Chaila and ICU staff for saving his life.

“That night I had a desperate night, the worst night of my life. I was just so sick in my body, it consumed my whole body, I was so weak, I felt rotten. The nerves were being stripped away and I don’t remember any more. I couldn’t tell you what day I woke up or when it was,” said John.

Plasmapheresis, a procedure to put artificial plasma back into the blood took place but he didn’t know anything about it. Three weeks were a blur.

What was keeping his wife Goretti and three children – Owen, Pat and Amy – going was the knowledge that most patients make a full recovery, and the care in Dooradoyle.

Amy says as well as taking care of their dad, staff practically counselled them and reassured them that their father would get through this.

After 28 days John’s knee quivered and they knew he was on the long road to recovery. In a way John had locked in syndrome as he couldn’t move or talk. But he never once let his spirits drop.

“Once I got the full explanation as to what it was and there was a good recovery chance I got it into my head this is going to be one day at a time.

“I had psychiatrists on two occasions call to me to ask me was I down? To me I was never down.

“They couldn’t believe I was coping so well, most of the time I wasn’t in pain. I put it down to the care I was getting in the hospital, and my own family, all my brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-laws were there full-time. All of that combined brought me though the worst of it,” said John. Being a massive hurling fan, watching Donal O’Grady lift the Munster Cup on his little portable TV certainly gave him a lift. But the best was yet [Read More…]

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