When dad Tom Sainsbury takes a stroll with his wife Paulina and baby son Oscar, they look like any other young family enjoying the Spring sunshine.
However just a few weeks ago Tom was paralysed and unable to move after contracting the rare and potentially life-threatening Guillain-Barre Syndrome,
But thanks to specialist rehabilitation support from not-for-profit community health services provider Sirona care & health, Tom was home with his family in time for Easter.
Tom, 30, from Patchway in Bristol, thought he had been struck down by a nasty flu bug but when the symptoms persisted he discovered he had contracted the syndrome, a very rare condition particularly for someone of his age.
The condition affects the nerves with symptoms including numbness, weakness and pain in feet, hands, limbs and muscles; it can also affect breathing with around one or two people in every 100,000 diagnosed each year.
Tom, an IT technician at leading law firm Burges Salmon based in Bristol, said: “Initially I started feeling feverish and had low energy levels. I went to see my GP and had a blood test but within three days I had numbness in my hands which then escalated up my arms and down to my legs and feet. I was terrified as I just didn’t know what was happening to me and it was really affecting my breathing.
“I was instantly diagnosed in hospital with my condition. I was informed that my body had effectively started attacking itself after the antibodies had been attacked. I was in Southmead Hospital for around a month before going to Sirona’s Skylark Rehabilitation Unit in Yate, a few weeks ago where initially I could not walk to the ensuite in my room.”
Sirona provided intensive therapy in the unit and ensured he had equipment at home so he could continue his recovery with his family.
The Sirona team also supported him with an exercise programme to enhance his mobility, strength and balance. He also received advice on how to get up from and down to the floor so he can enjoy playing with eight-month-old Oscar. Tom is now able to walk unaided and go up and down stairs, something he felt would be impossible just a short time ago.
Tom adds: “The support from everyone at Sirona has been amazing. It’s only when something of this magnitude happens to you that you truly recognise the great work that our local health services provide despite all the pressures placed on it. Just a few weeks ago I was completely incapacitated and couldn’t get from my bed to the loo. I really missed being normal. Now I am up and moving around again and enjoying the company of my wife and son who I’ve missed terribly. We’re certainly going to enjoy Easter this year.”
Ann Keizer, an occupational therapist at Sirona who supported Tom during his stay at Skylark, said: “It’s great to see Tom on the mend again after going through what was a difficult experience for him and his family. We were able to put him through an intensive rehabilitation programme at Skylark, focussed on rebuilding his independence and achieving his goal to get home as quickly as possible to his family. It’s especially lovely to see him playing with his young son again which didn’t seem possible only a short time ago.”