A MAN was left paralysed from the neck down and nearly died – after catching a cold.
Derek Ledingham’s 14-month ordeal began with a “regular cold” and then developed into a rare and potentially fatal illness.
The 41-year-old from Portlethen, Aberdeenshire, woke the day after catching his cold in February last year with no use of his hands or legs and slurred speech.
Derek and his family had initially feared a stroke, but doctors at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) told him that he had developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition which attacks the nervous system.
Derek was admitted to the hospital, and found that as the condition progressed he was unable to move any part of his body except his toes and his head and at one point “physically couldn’t reply” to questions from his family and doctors.
He spent nine months in the hospital recovering from the illness, eventually being discharged for rehab in November 2014. Even now he still needs rehab and faces permanent nerve damage to his fingers.
Derek said that nothing had particularly concerned him about the cold.
But just a few days later he woke up “feeling drunk” with “legs like jelly” and without the use of his hands or fingers.
Derek, a senior Graphic Designer, said he “collapsed back into bed” and managed to contact his father, who rushed him to hospital.
“Not a stroke”
When doctors at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary hospital confirmed that it was not a stroke Mr Ledingham was initially relieved, but doctors told him that with Guillain-Barré syndrome, “things will get worse before they get better.”
He said: “At that point I thought, ‘How much worse can it get?’”
Before long he said he was “struggling to breath” and and couldn’t answer text messages from friends asking how he was faring.
Doctors rushed him to the Intensive Care Unit, where he spent five days under close medical supervision.
Guillain-Barré syndrome affects around 1,200 people in the UK every year, attacking the central nervous system in the wake of viral or bacterial infections.
It can cause severe muscle weakness and complications, and in some cases can lead to complete immobility which can take years to recover from.
After an arduous recovery over nine months Derek was released from hospital in November 2014 for physiotherapy rehabilitation.
He is expected to make a nearly full recovery, saying: “I suppose I am fortunate, as around 20% of the people who get it don’t make a recovery.”
But doctors doubt that he will ever regain feeling in his fingers which suffered from nerve damage.
In the next year Mr Ledingham aims to run a 10km race with the help of friends, although he admitted “I won’t be playing football again.”