Narooma's Craig Dawson determined to overcome Guillain-Barré syndrome

After catching a chest cold before Christmas, Craig Dawson's health took a serious downturn.

The Narooma mobile mechanic and retained firefighter began suffering the painful symptoms of a disease he had never heard of - Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

The New Year was hardly a celebration for Mr Dawson, who became paralysed in hospital.

"It was about a week after my chest cold that I started getting symptoms.

Craig Dawson remains positive he will be able to return to his work as a mobile mechanic.

Craig Dawson remains positive he will be able to return to his work as a mobile mechanic.

"The tingling feeling in my legs was like a whole heap of sand was in my socks and (my legs were) in a bucket of icy cold water," he explained.

"I couldn't get out of bed without using the dressing table."

Mr Dawson battled through Christmas before seeking emergency help.

"I thought I had just pinched a big nerve," he said.

However, he was diagnosed with a neurological disorder at the Moruya District Hospital and referred to The Canberra Hospital for assessment.

Having done everything for myself for more than 40 years, it was hard having to ask for help ...

Craig Dawson

"I couldn't get up, and I had no reflexes," he said.

It was a stressful New Year's Eve for Mr Dawson and his partner, who drove straight to the emergency ward in Canberra.

"I rolled through in a wheelchair and was tested for everything," he said.

"I had an MRI, which I never want to have again, it was horrible - I was in the machine for an hour and was claustrophobic.

At 15 minutes to midnight Mr Dawson began hemoglobin treatment for GBS and hoped the new year would bring positive results.

It got a lot worse before it got better.

He spent eight days in hospital where he gradually lost movement to his arms and legs.

"I was about one month into rehab before I felt any improvement."

Mr Dawson said in severe cases of the syndrome, patients are paralysed for life.

"We panicked in the beginning," he said.

Unable to manage simple tasks like shaving, holding a pen and texting on his phone, Mr Dawson lost pride.

"Having done everything for myself for more than 40 years, it was hard having to ask for help all the time," he said.

Craig Dawson waits for his physiotherapy appointment at the Narooma Community Health Centre recently.

Craig Dawson waits for his physiotherapy appointment at the Narooma Community Health Centre recently.

Mr Dawson's friend, Chantelle Gauslaa, started a GoFundME page after hearing of his long road to recovery ahead and that he would need distant trips to specialists.

"Nobody likes putting their hand out; I was amazed with the response from the community," Mr Dawson said.

"I have been able to buy things like walking sticks and a toilet frame.

"The support from Narooma has been fantastic."

Mr Dawson's positive outlook has pushed him towards a quicker recovery, although he still has a long way to go.

Adverse after effects may develop, but Mr Dawson remains determined not to think the worst.

"I have decided that I am not getting a permanent disability," he said.

He continues his daily rehabilitation exercises and hopes to return to work as soon as he can.

"I really want to get back to work, but my body isn't ready yet," he said.

"I don't want to make mistakes."

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Facts

  • The syndrome is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system begins to attack the peripheral nervous system.
  • Antibodies and lymphocytes attack and damage the peripheral nerves causing weakness/paralysis (motor nerves affected) and/or abnormal sensations and pain (sensory nerves affected).
  • It can present in many different ways making it difficult to diagnose in the early stages.
  • The symptoms can occur quite rapidly over hours to days or slowly over weeks.
  • It is a rare disease and the cause is not known but GBS usually follows a viral or bacterial infection.
  • There is no known cure for GBS but some therapies can reduce its severity and increase a patient's recovery.

Information from the Brain Foundation website.

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