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Success Stories

Attack on His Nervous System: Rare Syndrome Causes Patrick to Need Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy After Spinal Cord Injury

In 2015, Patrick Sullivan woke up to having what he thought was the common flu. Little did he know, his life was about to change. Patrick got up for work and was attempting his daily routine. Feeling dehydrated, tingling in legs and feet, and not having much of an appetite, he knew something was wrong. After deciding to go into the hospital, he had a gut feeling that it was the right thing to do. Patrick drove himself to the Emergency Room and only after a few tests, the doctor told him he needed to be taken to the hospital immediately to see a specialist due to extreme dehydration and weakness in the feet and legs. At this point, Patrick was unable to move his neck or walk.

When he got to the hospital, the doctors and nurses did a series of tests and concluded doing a spinal tap. Soon after, Patrick was told that he is a rare condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. This condition can come from an acute bacterial or viral infection and is very rare as there are fewer than 20,000 cases per year and is not curable, but treatment and therapies can help. After being in the hospital for 75 days, Patrick headed home.

After struggling with memory loss from conversations, missed appointments and forgetting to take medication on time, he and his family knew he needed a care team to support Patrick in his experiences with cognitive deficits with attention and short-term memory. In January of 2017, Patrick got in contact with Heather Smith, BS, CBIS, and Clinical Coordinator, who assisted in getting Patrick into our Exton, PA, program, and worked with him on his Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy (CRT) services. “I needed assistance with the daily tasks such as understanding and managing my medical records, budgeting, organizing, cooking, baking, and managing my feelings,” said Patrick. “Thanks to Heather, I now have a better understanding and control of my memory and thoughts.”

When Patrick first started his therapies with Heather, he was experiencing issues with pain, fatigue, balance, left food drop, lower body weakness, and inability to identify temperatures from the neck down and was in a wheelchair. “Our staff created personalized strategies to improve his short-term memory and attention skills such as setting alarms, creating wall calendars, organizing and attention strategies, planning worksheets for doctor appointments, and journaling,” said Heather.

Today, Patrick can walk with support from a cane and rarely forgets to take his medication. He is very involved in his community and is enjoying getting back into baking and woodworking. He is currently working on crafting an entertainment center for his living room for him and his wife. When asked if he had any advice for someone going through something similar, Patrick replied, “Give it time. This is not a marathon. This is a journey. Breathe and find the right therapies for you. You will get through it.”

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