Martin van Douwe (GBS - Guillain Barre Sindroom)

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Martin van Douwe –

Read his story online here:




I am 63 years of age and self-employed - I have a small sign writing business which I run on my own in Sabie - near Nelspruit. I am married with 6 children and 7 grandchildren.

My wife has a small hair-salon which she also runs by herself.

I am (was) healthy for my age and very active. I went from this to paralyzed in a matter of a week.


My Story,


About 4 weeks ago I started to feel a tingling and numbness in my hands and feet. When it persisted we thought it had to do with diabetes. Then my legs got weak and I started to feel off-balance - hands and feet became numb. Sunday we went to church and I could manage to shuffle along  and stand.


On Monday 10th August it was a holiday and we decided to visit the local Horseshoe Falls - this  entailed a short walk/climb up the mountain - perhaps 200 meters. Well I barely made it up and back down again! I was so weak and off-balance and we realized something was seriously wrong.


On the Tuesday 11th August we drove to Nelspruit to see our GP. He tested for sugar and said it was not diabetes - he checked me over, gave me Prednisone and a prescription for vitamin supplements and sent me home. We were so relieved I did not have diabetes!


But the relief was short-lived.


It just got worse and on the advice of a friend we went to Nelspruit Medi-Clinic ER. on the Wednesday 12th   August.


On the way the right side of my face started drooping and now we were thinking stroke - I was in deep trouble!.


At Medi-Clinic the intern in Emergency did some tests and observations and it was not long before he diagnosed Guillain Barre Syndrome.


The face, he said, was due to Bell's Palsy - not the GBS - caused by pressure or damage to the facial nerve and not dangerous. At this stage my face was giving more problems than the GBS - decidedly debilitating as I could not speak, eat, drink or see properly..


They said the 2 conditions are not related except for fact that both affect the nerves.


I was admitted  to hospital and the Specialist Physician that evening confirmed the initial diagnosis


Blood tests were done and a MRI brain scan but everything was normal. I was however becoming weaker by the minute and walking was a big challenge. The face was not good either as I could not smile, frown, close my eye, drink or see properly.


I was not given a drip and my only medication is Prednisone for the Bell's Palsy. They considered putting me in ICU but the doctor was against it because of all the bugs that live there.(I think he knew we could not afford it).


All this time I have felt no pain whatsoever - just the incredible weakness in my limbs, the numbness in hands and feet..My balance is totally off and I have loss of motor skills in my hands and fingers. I cannot even unscrew the cap of a medicine container.


I insist I want to keep moving myself with the aid of a walking stick, chairs, tables and walls for support - I do this at home as well but walking is extremely difficult and incredibly tiring. I must however never give up!.


The doctor could see my stress as we have no medical aid and had to get by with the little extra I had earned recently. Ironically I do (did?) the signs for Med Clinic for some years now and this got us through the initial expenses. So after 4 days in hospital I was sent home and here I am writing this on my laptop. What a God send the computer and Internet is - I feel I am not alone and can reach the world although  I am sitting in my bed.


I am thinking of the future - I know this thing can take months, even years and at my age time is precious - I also need to make a living - so some big decisions need to be made, everything is just so confusing as this has happened so fast!


One thing I know for sure - that this is a serious condition and will have life-changing consequences for us.


Finally and maybe firstly - I thank and praise our Lord - who was and is with me every step of the way and has already undertaken wonderfully to care for me - I know that He will make way where there seems to be no way!


Also wonderful is the way family, friends and church are supporting me and praying for me.


Most wonderful is my wife, Elsie, who does everything for me with unquestioning love and dedication, who hides her concern for my  sake and without whom I would be unable to do anything - truly the  Lord sent me an Angel for a time such as this.


The fact that I am already at home and experiencing no pain just shows that He is already answering our prayers  and there is more to come!


P.S. Hats off to young Dr. Jooste at Medi-Clinic who diagnosed 2 relatively rare conditions spot on, without the benefit of tests and scans!!



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