By Cyndy Rebisz
One of the nicest compliments I think that I have ever received was when someone told me that I was “one in a million.” Who wouldn’t want to feel special, unique, one of a kind? I have used this phrase many times to let others know how much I think of them and cherish them. It always brings a smile and a humble “thank you.”
Just about two years ago, being “one in a million” took on a whole different meaning in our family. Our daughter, René, a wife of 17 years, mother of four children, began to experience some unexplained physical symptoms. Her feet, legs, hands and arms began to tingle slightly. They felt somewhat numb and began to hurt. But she’s a mom and what do moms do? They just keep taking good care of their families and deal with the discomfort.
Until the day, two weeks after the initial symptoms began, when the numbness in her legs reached up to her thighs and made her legs feel like cement blocks. She could no longer lift them or move them forward to walk. Her hands and arms had grown equally weak, making it difficult and painful to grasp objects or take care of her or her family’s needs.
A hospital diagnosis came. She had contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is a rare neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks and damages its own healthy nerves. It can affect anyone, at any age. The exact cause of GBS is not known, nor is it contagious or inherited. Studies have shown that about “one in a million” individuals will contract this syndrome after receiving the flu shot. René was the one in a million.
Because of her paralysis, René’s life and the life of her family were turned upside down. After a week in the hospital, she came home in a wheelchair. Eventually she upgraded to a walker, then a cane. After 11 months, she was able to do some limited driving. She received approval from her employer to work three days from home. Some of the nerves in her upper legs and arms have regenerated. But she continues to deal with numbness, pain, weakness and low energy.
Anyone who has ever experienced a trauma, an unforeseen accident or tragedy, or an event that has changed their life, can identify with the feelings of loss, fear, aloneness and disbelief. Hopefully others were as blessed as René and her family have been as they witnessed their school family, church family, friends, parents, siblings, physical therapist and doctors surround them with love, trust and hope. The support came in the form of prepared meals, rides for the kids to school or sports practices and events; cards and notes of encouragement; house cleaning; phone calls and visits; and help to get to doctor’s visits.
As a strong Catholic, René’s faith has played an important role in her continued recovery. After the initial diagnosis, Rene’ received the sacrament of anointing of the sick. Prayers were and continued to be offered for her strength, comfort and healing. An online site has connected her with others who suffer from Guillain-Barré.
René may never be able to walk again without an outside aid. She may never be able to play hoops or four-square again with her kids. She may never be pain free again. But with the grace of God, she has faced a demon and found her inner strength. It’s not about what she can no longer do, but what she can continue to do.
She truly is, in my eyes, “one in a million.”
Cyndy Rebisz is inspired by the quiet courage of her daughter, René.