Thursday, October 29, 2009


Hilary Wilkinson Victim: Hilary Wilkinson spent three months in hospital after she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome
When Hilary Wilkinson woke up with muscle weakness in her left arm and difficulty breathing, doctors initially put it down to a stroke.
But within hours, she was on a ventilator in intensive care after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
She spent three months in hospital and had to learn how to talk and walk again. But at times, when she was being fed through a drip and needed a tracheotomy just to breathe, she doubted whether she would survive.
The mother of two, 57, from , Cumbria, had been in good health until she developed a chest infection in March 2006. She gradually became so weak she could not walk downstairs.
Doctors did not diagnose Guillain-Barre until her condition worsened in hospital and tests showed her reflexes slowing down. It is impossible for doctors to know how she contracted the disorder, although it is thought to be linked to some infections.
Mrs Wilkinson said: ‘It was very scary. I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t speak. My arms and feet had no strength and breathing was hard.
I was treated with immunoglobulin, which are proteins found in blood, to stop damage to my nerves. After ten days, I still couldn’t speak and had to mime to nurses or my family.
‘It was absolutely horrendous and I had no idea whether I would get through it. You reach very dark moments at such times and wonder how long it can last.
But I’m a very determined person and I had lots of support.’
After three weeks, she was transferred to a neurological ward, where she had an MRI scan and nerve tests to assess the extent of the damage.
Still unable to speak and in a wheelchair, Mrs Wilkinson eventually began gruelling physiotherapy to improve her muscle strength and movement but it was exhausting and painful.
Three years later, she is almost fully recovered. She can now walk for several miles at a time, has been abroad and carries out voluntary work for a GBS Support Group helpline.
She said: ‘It makes me feel wary that the Government is rolling out this vaccine without any clear idea of the GBS risk, if any. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and it certainly changed my life.
‘I’m frightened to have the swine flu vaccine if this might happen again – it’s a frightening illness and I think more research needs to be done on the effect of the vaccine.’

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