Drugs, Antibodies, Pain & Relief

I meant to publish weekly updates on my condition, but after I was released from the hospital, I was either trying to get caught up on work or exhausted – Mrs. Loco can tell you there was no middle ground. So, here’s my attempt to resume the GBS story.

CopingAs I mentioned before, I spent twelve days in the hospital, all in the Neurology Telemetry unit. The first four or five are kind of a blur. I was still getting a lot of narcotic pain relief, but my body started developing a tolerance. I was allowed morphine every two hours, but it only lasted forty-five minutes. I was allowed Flexeril every eight hours, but it took an hour to start working and then only lasted another three hours. A pair of Percosets were similar, but usually had the benefit of putting me to sleep for a couple hours. These orders often left gaps of over an hour while my back spasmed and the pain radiated down my legs. Sometimes all I could do was lay on my side and shake, others I just lay as still as I could and focused on taking slow, deep breaths.

The neurologist ordered a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to confirm his diagnosis. A normal protein count in cerebro-spinal fluid is approximately 40; I was told mine was nearly 100.

I was started on Intravenous immunoglobulin as soon as the pharmacy could fill the order and send it to the right location. IVIG causes a histamine reaction in most patients, though, so 50 mg of Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) was administered by IV prior to the IVIG (if you have the means, I highly recommend it – this was an instant buzz). The manufacturers of Benadryl are now marketing the same dosage, albeit delivered orally, as ZzzQuil. Eventually I was also started on Solu-Medrol, an intravenous steroid anti-inflammatory. This proved the most effective at reducing the back pain while the IVIG therapy could fight the Guillain-Barre.

The point is, I was doped up. After a couple days of lying on a plastic mattress and sweating out opioids, I badly needed a shower. I sat in a shower chair and let warm water run over me, barely able to lift my arms or sit up straight. Getting out, the floor slipped away from me and my ankle snapped under my collapsing weight. Now I had a serious physical injury to impede my recovery.


As my GBS symptoms improved, I started refusing morphine and other opioids. Not because I’m a teetotaler when it comes to painkillers; I’ll take them when I need (in fact, at this very moment, I’m on Oxycodone and Aspirin). GBS, in addition to making maintaining a sitting position excruciatingly painful, had shut down my gastrointestinal tract and opioids were preventing it from getting started back up. That’s a nice way of saying I hadn’t defecated in approximately twelve days. My abdomen was severely distended, I felt like I had a very rough rope tied around my belly and I had put on almost thirteen pounds. I was quite literally full of shit. I shed some of this weight in the hospital, the rest a couple days after returning home.

An orthopedic surgeon installed a titanium plate and eight tiny screws in my ankle. He gave me good news and bad news: I would regain full functionality in the ankle, but he recommended that I discontinue running. He said it would only aggravate an ankle that was likely to be arthritic in my 60s, anyway, and suggested biking and swimming. Just like that, my running life was over.

Two days after surgery, I was released to start another phase of the journey. I’ll do my best to not keep you waiting another six weeks for the next installment.

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