Part Two - Guillain-Barré – Not an Irish Beer by Glenn Sulley

This can’t be happening to me.

After days of weakness, numbness, and fatigue, I was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. I lay despondent in my hospital bed, wondering just what my future held. I thought of all the things I needed to accomplish at home, at work, and at college. I was mere weeks away from graduating and I could barely walk. I tried to remain optimistic, constantly assuring everyone that I would be well within the week. After all, there was an OU football game that next weekend, and I intended to be there. But, I knew that was unrealistic.

For the next two weeks, I battled physical debilitation and mental despair. Even more agonizing was watching my two-year old son as he held his arms out for me. His usually big and strong father could not lift him and hug him. I came to dread his leaving. He would stand in my doorway and say, “Get better Daddy, you need to come home soon.”

As a nurse, I was accustomed to being the caretaker. I wasn’t supposed to be in this hospital bed. There were moments when I was so angry at my plight; I would cry myself to sleep. I questioned God. Why me? Finally, it hit me. Why not me? I’m not special.

Life Affirming

About midway through my stay, I had an epiphany. For the first time I my life, I realized that I needed to be patient with myself. I had become so caught up in the rat race, I had forgotten about me; and it was just as important to take care of me as it was for me to take care of others. It was then that I finally accepted what had happened to me. That proved to be a turning point; I was motivated now, and though I still struggled, I did so with purpose.

Finally, I went back to work. At first, I had just enough strength to make it through the morning, and then I would go home so fatigued I couldn’t do anything else. My son couldn’t understand why his Daddy spent so much time in bed and on the couch.

With the support of God, my family, my medical team, my church, and devoted friends, I recovered in five weeks. My doctors were surprised but pleased; in most cases, it takes at least six months to recover, and sometimes, as much as a full year.

Back to work.

Though the numbness remained, gradually I worked my way up to a full day at the clinic. Over time, I recovered the feeling in all my extremities. And never was any man so glad to go back to work full-time! I could never have guessed how much I would miss my co-workers and patients, and my normal routine. And somehow, I was able to complete my Bachelor of Science degree, too!

I know now, or perhaps have relearned, several things I had taken for granted. Life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon; things will get done without me. There is value in the power to say no. This big old world will move along just fine without me; but my life, and my time are precious. In the workplace, I may be replaceable; but family is not. I am stronger – physically, mentally, and spiritually than I ever knew.

Yes, Guillain-Barré may have the ring of a warm Irish beer, but that would not be so. For me, it was a life affirming experience.

"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 NRSV

Reflection Question:

Where have you experienced the surprising affirmation of God's presence in the midst of an otherwise chaotic time?


God of surprises,
We confess that we take the beauty around us for granted.
Forgive us and call us to celebrate every day.

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