StoryCorps at SHC: Douglas Roberts

The thing I wanted to do most was be able to hug my son.

Douglas Roberts: My adult life has been before and after Guillain-Barre. And it was a total nightmare from the beginning to the end. I was paralyzed completely and flat on my back. I could blink my eyes. And I could wiggle my big toe on my left leg, but other than that I was totally paralyzed. I was on a vent. I was on a feeding tube. I had various monitors, a heart monitor on my chest. I had a catheter. So, virtually every orifice of my body had some medical device in it, as I lay there flat on my back for nine weeks.

I was in an Intensive Care Room, a very small room with a small window. And I remember thinking that there was a possibility that I could go crazy in that room because I was totally paralyzed, but I had complete control of my mental process. That was not a good combination. Our minister came by to visit with me and talked the nurses into taking me for a walk outside, with his help. And so, they were able to take me off the respirator and put me on a hand pump that they could operate and take me out to the fountain.

I remember that was like I had escaped from a prison cell, to be able to look back in the wheelchair and look up and see the sky, and the birds, and the trees, and the running water, and the people that were walking around. I kept remembering how wonderful it might be to be able to walk again. So, that was a, a time that was, was really hard for me. Really, really hard for me to continue to trust and to keep hope alive that someday I was going to be regular again, (laughs) be normal again.

The thing I wanted to do most was be able to hug my son or even just touch him, but I couldn't. I couldn't do that. I was discharged to rehab and I remember the doctors who had my care betting on whether I would walk again. One doctor said I would never walk again. And one doctor said I would walk by Christmas. So, I actually took one step in the parallel bars the day before Christmas.

And now that I have survived it I have no leg muscles. And I wear braces from the tip of my toe to the crack of my butt, on both legs. As they say, if it doesn't kill ya, it makes you stronger. So, I'm lucky to be here and grateful to be here.

Sound Editor: Carolina Correa

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