My son’s battle with Guillain-Barré Syndrome
My son, John David, did not receive any academic honors but he was given a standing ovation by his batchmates when the medical school dean, Dr. Angeles Tan-Alora of the University of Santo Tomas, read a special citation for him during their commencement rites at the PICC plenary hall.
JD, as he is fondly called by his batchmates and friends, was given a citation because of his sheer determination to finish his medical degree after a life-threatening illness.
While JD was making up for his deficiency in Neurology in 1998, he was rushed to the University of Santo Tomas Hospital with a severe case of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare neurological condition associated with ascending generalized paralysis.
Upon admission to the hospital under the service of the eminent neurologist Dr. Jesus Poblete, he already had severe weakness in both legs and difficulty in breathing.
In just about 12 hours after admission, he became completely paralyzed and had to be rushed into the intensive care unit, where massive doses of gamma globulin had to be infused into his veins for the next five days.
Despite the aggressive medical intervention, JD went into respiratory failure during the next 24 hours, necessitating an emergency tracheostomy and attachment to a respirator.
Within the next five days, he developed atelectasis of a portion of his lungs and a hospital-acquired pseudomonas pneumonia, requiring the use of third- and fourth-generation Cephalosporins, a class of antibiotics.
In addition, he was nebulized with bronchodilators around the clock every six hours. By this time, his whole body including the face was completely paralyzed.
But it was a good thing JD fought and held on for the next 20 days in the ICU, under the close watch of his pulmonologist, Dr. Isaias Lanzona. Unable to talk, move or walk, JD fought his battle with sheer determination, with the help of the superb medical and nursing staff, not to mention his twin siblings and us his parents, who all worked hard to give him the care that he needed for the next two critical weeks in the hospital, notwithstanding the mounting hospital bills.
Even while in the ICU, his physical rehabilitation was already started by the staff, who worked doubly hard to enable him to say his first few monosyllables and to take his first steps again. He had to be fed by nasogastric tube, and it took some time before he could tolerate even baby food and ice cream.
What was really amazing and admirable was JD’s fighting spirit. Always cheerful, he held on despite all odds and fought to help himself get better. And always with that one goal in his heart — to finish his medical studies. He stayed for all of 45 days in the hospital, and had intensive physical and occupational therapy sessions for the next six months.
Miraculously, and with God’s help, he was well enough to resume his studies after 10 months of the heartbreaking ordeal.
He went on to become a clinical clerk at the UST clinical division, and somehow survived the 12-month clerkship. Thereafter, he successfully passed his reválida and graduated in April 2000.
One of his professors remarked, “Congrats! You have redeemed yourself!”
He went on to pursue his residency in dermatology and became a full-fledged diplomate and fellow of the Philippine Dermatological Society.
Looking back, my wife and I thought JD would never make it. But then, we discovered that God is always there to help and sustain us in our darkest hours.
Yes, we prayed then like we had never prayed before. In one of our disheartening moments, I even asked God to show me a sign that He was there for us. And, true enough, one late afternoon, as I was praying in the hospital chapel, I noticed the Bible verse written on the scripture board.
It said: “Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). I took that for an answer, and, indeed, soon enough, God made a way for my son’s eventual recovery.
* * *
Dr. Floriño A. Francisco , 80, a retired pediatrician and a freelance writer, is 2000 TOPICS (The Outstanding Physician in Community Service) awardee. He is the founding chair of Lingap-Bata Med Mission, which he organized in 1998 right after his son’s recovery.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.