Lee Clark, professional football manager and former Premier League player, tells us about his family’s experience with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Lee starts by recounting the beginning of his father’s illness, and how it progressed.
Well it was December 2017 and my father had been diagnosed with cancer and one of the options of him surviving and getting through that was to get his voice box removed. He spent the Christmas period in hospital having the operation and was doing well going to see his pigeons as he was a pigeon racer. All of a sudden, he started feeling ill and aching, so he was taken back to the hospital.
What did the doctors think might be causing his symptoms?
They thought it was a brain tumour, brain cancer because obviously he recovered from bowel cancer and was doing exceptionally well recovering from throat cancer, they thought it might have spread to the brain. They also thought it might have been a severe heart attack or a severe stroke. After tests, these ideas were dismissed, and it was an emotional rollercoaster. When they did eventually find it was Guillain-Barré, we thought what’s that and what is it doing to our father?
How long did it take for your father’s illness to be diagnosed?
It took two and a half to three weeks.
How did you feel before your father’s condition was diagnosed?
The worst part was not knowing rather than the diagnosis, the not knowing 100 percent what it was, was the worst part.
Did he receive IVIG treatment?
He did, and initially there was an improvement so that gave us hope, but then he went back to where he was.
Did the medical team tell you what to expect?
I was in on a daily basis and didn’t see lots of improvement, the doctors couldn’t give us a timescale for the recovery.
How did the illness affect your father?
He was head of the family and a very hard-working man, he was a grandad and a great-grandfather and helped the children out, he was very active. I got the feeling he was embarrassed and lost a little bit of self-confidence, a man that had done everything for his family was just lying in bed because he was so ill.
Was your father able to be taken off the ventilator?
Through the physiotherapy, they were trying to take him off the ventilator for certain periods of the day, he got up to three hours off twice a day, but he then started to have problems, so they had to reduce that. We were told that him having to rely on the ventilator wasn’t such a good scenario to be in. When he decided to come off the ventilator and come home, we knew it wouldn’t be a long time before he passed.
Would it have helped to get an earlier diagnosis?
Without being an expert, it would have helped the family 100 percent if we got an earlier diagnosis.
How would you like to help GAIN?
If I can help in any small way, put my story out there to raise awareness of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
What have you learnt from your experience with Guillain-Barré syndrome?
Be positive about it, around the person who has been diagnosed and not to think of the worst-case scenario which unfortunately happened to my family.
How did you feel when GAIN asked you to be an ambassador for GAIN charity?
More than delighted, I was very proud.
To watch a video of Lee’s interview, please visit our video section of the website.
Lee Clark – Professional football manager and former Premier League and England under 21 player
Lee Clark was born on 27th October 1972 and played professional football for Newcastle United, Sunderland and Fulham, as well as playing for England.
He is currently Blyth Spartans manager after having spells managing Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City, Blackpool, Kilmarnock and Bury.
Lee was born in Wallsend, Northumberland, and started his football career at his boyhood club, Newcastle United. He came up through their youth ranks and went onto play first team football, helping Newcastle get promoted to the Premier League. He was part of the side that was beaten to the title by Manchester United in 1996, helping them come second two seasons in a row. After making nearly 200 appearances and scoring 23 goals, Lee moved to Sunderland in the First Division in 1997.
After playing a part in Sunderland getting to the Playoff Final in which they lost on penalties, Lee helped them get promoted to the Premier League with a then First Division record of 105 points the following season.
Lee moved onto Fulham, where he played 149 league games and scored 20 goals. He earned another Division One title in 2001 and scored at Old Trafford in 2003 when Fulham famously beat Manchester United 3-1.
When Clark’s contract expired, the Fulham club captain moved back to Newcastle United in the summer of 2005, where he played and coached. Overall, he played 265 times for Newcastle and scored 28 goals.
Whilst playing for Newcastle in his first spell, lee played for England Under 21s making 11 appearances between 1992-1993, and in 1997 was a member of England’s squad for Le Tournoi de France.
Following his player career, Lee moved into coaching, originally as First Team coach and Reserve Team manager under Glenn Roeder at Newcastle before following him to Norwich in The Championship where he became assistant manager.
His managerial career began at Huddersfield Town, who he took charge of in December 2008. He helped the club to ninth-place finish in League One, having lost only two home games with him in charge. In his second season, Huddersfield secured a playoff spot.
Lee became the first manager to win three Manager of the Month awards in a single season since Roberto Martinez in 2007/08. Huddersfield were unfortunately beaten by Millwall in the Playoff Semi Final.
The following season, Clark’s Huddersfield went on a club record 25-game unbeaten run in the league and secured a play-off spot, but went on to lose to Peterborough in the final at Old Trafford.
After leaving Huddersfield, Lee took the Birmingham City job in June 2012 and kept them in The Championship in the final game of the 2013/14 season. His next management role was at Blackpool, which was then followed by a spell at Kilmarnock who he kept in The Scottish Premier League.
After a stay at Bury, Clark took charge of Blyth Spartans in The National League North for the start of the 2019/20 season.