Benefit for local woman suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Erin Drabek was a surgical nurse at Rockford Memorial Hospital, in good health and a vibrant young woman who enjoyed many activities.

She and her husband, Frank, who were just recently married, were enjoying life and planning their future together. Then, in June 2006, Erin began experiencing tingling and itching sensations in her toes. The sensations soon spread to her legs and, with her nurse’s training, she knew something was not right. When she went to the doctor to have things checked out, the happy young couple’s world was turned upside down when they were given Erin’s diagnosis: Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an acute illness involving the peripheral nervous system that usually occurs two to three weeks after a viral or bacterial infection such as the flu or common cold, gastrointestinal viral infection, infectious mononucleosis or viral hepatitis. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body produces antibodies that damage the myelin sheath that surrounds peripheral nerves. The myelin sheath increases the speed at which signals travel along the nerves. GBS is a rare disease, and its frequency is about one to two cases in every 100,000 people per year in the U.S. The exact cause is not known, but it is not hereditary or contagious.

The first symptoms of GBS are usually numbness or tingling in the toes and fingers, with progressive weakness in the arms and legs over the next few days. The symptoms may stay in this phase, causing only mild difficulty in walking, requiring crutches or a walking stick. However, sometimes the illness progresses, leading to paralysis of the arms and legs. About 25 percent of the time, the paralysis continues up the chest and freezes the breathing muscles, leaving the patient dependent on a ventilator. Erin’s case of GBS progressed to the stage just prior to needing a ventilator, which left her with severe immobility of her extremities, along with continued pain and numbness.

Most patients recover completely, but some have residual weakness, numbness and occasional pain. A small number are unable to resume their normal occupation. Luckily, Erin is on her way back to being healthy, and her doctors indicate Erin will recover to about 90 percent of her pre-syndrome mobility. However, the recovery will not be easy and may take up to three years. Erin’s first year of recovery has passed, and unfortunately, the medical bills for her treatment continue to add up.

To help Erin and Frank cover some of the costs of her hospital bills, Erin’s co-workers and friends are holding a benefit Sunday, June 24, from 4 to 10 p.m. at the Venetian Club, 2180 Elmwood Road in Rockford. Cost for the spaghetti dinner is $10, and the event will feature live music, silent and live auctions and 50/50 raffles ($10 per raffle ticket). All proceeds go to help cover the costs of Erin’s medical bills. Join the family and help Erin on her journey back to health.

Tickets are available at the door or by calling (815) 543-1261 or (815) 871-8110.

from the June 20-26, 2007, issue

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