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“You might remember my story from issue 2 of GAIN4ALL magazine back in summer 2014. Three years on, I’d like to tell you how I’m doing now” – Hayley Watson

On 26th April 2010 my life as I knew it changed forever. I was about to embark on a trip of a life time to help underprivileged children in Uganda, Africa. Through coaching soccer I could have given the children the chance to excel and learn knew life experiences through playing football. I had to have the yellow fever vaccination to be able to enter the country. The next day I awoke with breathing difficulties and weakness in all four of my limbs. My friend persuaded me to go to A+E having no idea of what was about to follow.

Over the course of the next few days my weakness turned into paralysis and my breathing got worse so I was admitted into ICU with heart and lung failure. I was completely paralysed from the neck down. I had many tests and examinations and was then diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. I was treated with IVIG and intravenous steroids.

Things kind of stayed stable for some time – I wasn’t getting any better but I wasn’t deteriorating. I moved to a general ward and then onto a neuro rehab ward. Here I received vital therapy and slowly started to improve. Over the next 9-10 months I was starting to recover some movement. I did a walkathon to raise money for GAIN and I did 10 steps!! But then I had a relapse and was back to being confined to the wheelchair and hoist for transfers.

There was so much positivity coming from other people but inside me I felt empty and hopeless. I was suffering from depression and was on a downwards spiral. I had a psychiatrist come to see me and he wanted me admitted to his ward, so this is what happened. This was the lowest time of my life. Days turned into weeks, and I still felt so hopeless. I would spend all day in bed which is kind of ironic because when I wasn’t able to get myself in and out of bed all I wanted to do was not be in bed.

Me and Nan in New York

After a huge fight on her hands from my mum I finally got the funding to move back to rehab. I went to rehab in Wales for 2 years and on the 3/3/16 I finally got discharged and was able to move into my own house living completely independently after nearly 6 years of being in hospital. In November 2016 I managed to go to New York to help my nan celebrate her 80th birthday.

I am doing the colour run in Manchester on the 1st July. I saw this advertised in my first year in hospital and I said to myself I have to do that when I can walk again.

I still have a lot of pain especially in my back which limits my ability to walk; I have to walk with crutches. I am still on a lot of medication but, hey, I’ll take all that seeing a few years ago I thought I would never walk again. I have set backs both physically and mentally but with the support of my amazing family and friends I get through them, and will continue to do so.

After living with GBS for nearly 7 years my life is now heading in a completely different path. I can no longer do sports, but who knows maybe in the future I’ll be able to do it again. I currently volunteer at 2 children’s charities who support kids with learning and physical disabilities and I also volunteer at a special school. I absolutely love it and couldn’t think of a better way to spend my days. 

On my journey, I have met some incredible people who now play a vital role in my life. I would not have met these people or be on my altered path in life if it wasn’t for GBS. So, I am grateful to GBS for that. It has made me into the person I am today.

I decided that on my GBS anniversary every year I am going to do one of the things on my bucket list. This year it is to use a pottery wheel to make something. But my main goal, within 5 years from now, is to go on the Inca Trail in Peru with my mum. We made this a deal when I was in my early days in hospital.

We go through these challenges we face to remind us of how strong we really are. I’ve learnt that life is so very short and that things can change in an instant. So you need to get out and do the things you want to do and live your life to the fullest NOW, and ENJOY it.

Whilst I was in hospital my weight more than doubled. This really affected my self-esteem and my confidence. I knew there wasn’t much I could do whilst still in hospital, but from the day I got discharged I vowed to do something about it. Fast forward 1 year and I have lost 5 1/2 stone. It’s the little things like being able to fit in clothes I couldn’t, buying a smaller size, and my towel fitting around my body much better. 

I have recently started my new chapter in life. I have got a job. My previous chapter I have been to hell and back but I have learnt so much from it, gained so much strength and if it wasn’t for having had Guillain-Barré syndrome, I probably wouldn’t have embarked on this new big adventure. #lifeaftergbs!

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