BACK in July, Andrew McClymont, or known more fondly as Red, thought he had hurt his back working or from pig chasing or fishing, and saw a chiropractor to alleviate his ailments. Soon after, he started feeling a tingling sensation in his arms and fingers. By Saturday night, Red had collapsed at home three times, stating he was unable to feel his legs. Upon collapsing again on Sunday, his wife, Elle-May called the ambulance thinking it was a pinched nerve in his back.
It was never imagined that Red was suffering from Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS). He was transported to Moree Hospital where he was quickly airlifted to Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital with the diagnosis of GBS.
“We were quite in shock as we didn’t understand what it really was but we’ve been doing lots of reading and we’re now well educated,” said Andrea.
GBS is a rare neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system—the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. GBS can range from a very mild case with brief weakness to nearly devastating paralysis, leaving the person unable to breathe independently. Fortunately, most people eventually recover from even the most severe cases of GBS. After recovery, some people will continue to have some degree of weakness.
“The exact cause of GBS is not known; it is not contagious or inherited,” explains Andrea Coss, Red’s mother. “Researchers don’t know why it strikes some people and not others.”
There may be a possible link between the chemical sprays used in cotton as there is a higher number of cases in the North West but there is no scientific evidence to confirm it.
After Red arrived in Tamworth on Sunday, it was unknown how severe his symptoms would become. After a couple of weeks being treated in Tamworth, he was making improvements only to dramatically deteriorate on 20th August and was transferred to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
“In a small percentage, less than 10%, of patients have an acute relapse after initial improvement or stabilization after treatment,” explains Andrea. “Severe, early symptoms of GBS significantly increase the risk of serious long-term complications and his recovery will now be longer than we initially thought; we’re doubtful he will recover 100%”.
Upon landing in Sydney, Red was placed on ECMO for a short time to relieve stress on his heart and lungs, as well as had a tracheotomy to prevent damage to his vocal cords, laryngeal mucosa and nerves. By August 31st, things had improved rapidly for Red and he was able to lift his arms and was full of chatter.
“Since arriving in Sydney, Red has had an entourage of visitors; mates who live in Sydney as well as family and friends from back home and this had kept his spirits high,” said Andrea.
On 3rd September, he was able to co-ordinate his hands and have a drink for the first time in over four weeks. He is well on his way to achieving his goal of lifting a beer to his mouth again,” laughed Andrea.
By the middle of September, Red ditched the wheelchair and was walking everywhere thanks to the use of the forearm support frame and began his physiotherapy and hydrotherapy by the end of September.
“Mobility can be improved with hydrotherapy exercises as he is able to perform activities in the pool that he is unable to perform on dry land but everyone responds differently to the physical manifestations of the condition as well as the pharmaceutical and rehabilitation interventions,” explains Andrea.
However like in any recovery, relapse is always possible and unfortunately Red again deteriorated.
“The medical team weren’t too concerned as they thought it was due to fatigue or the heat and that he would pick up but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
“Within the four week period, they start to improve and they come back to near normal but Red had a relapse last week so he has now been diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP),” said Andrea.
Red who has had five Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg) in the last week, now totals twelve doses since it all started and will need IVIg monthly for the next six months. Then they will reassess him after that if he needs it ongoing for the rest of his life; some people do go into remission with it but we’re just unsure with what will happen.”
Red underwent a nerve conduction test on Saturday and his neurologist, Dr Hughes, was positive with the results as there was myelin damage to his nerves rather than axon damage.
“Axon damage takes longer to recover than myelin so he should recover now from weeks to months rather than months to years because of the minimal axon damage,” added Andrea.
“It’s been tough; as his mother and wife, Elle-May, we’ve been doing lots of crying but Elle-May has been amazing, she and his son Ollie, have been by his side the entire time.”
“We’d like to thank everyone for their support as everyone has been amazing; people are selling raffle tickets across the state. It’s people from near and far, friends and strangers and their beautiful generosity and kindness that are making this extremely tough time just that little bit easier.
There is currently a monster raffle with tickets being sold at local businesses in Warialda and Bingara. The money raised from this raffle, personal donations on GoFundMe and upcoming fundraising events will help go towards the ongoing costs of treatment.
“It is fundraising for the both of them, so Elle-May can stay with Andrew down in Tamworth; it’s been a pretty rough ride.”
“Neither Elle-May or Andrew are at work, so they have no income, but the household bills keep coming in; it will also go towards ongoing care when they arrive home.”
The community is rallying behind Red, Elle-May and Ollie, with proceeds from the Gravesend Campdraft happening on 2nd and 3rd November going towards the family. There is also an upcoming Cricket fun day on 7th December where the raffle prizes will be drawn on the day as well as a Bowls Day early next year.
For more information, to keep updated on Red’s recovery or to donate, visit www.gofundme.com and search Andrew’s Fight with Guillian Barre Syndrome.