Wife Martha & I had experienced flu attacks in January 1994 & 1995. Nothing severe - just put us to bed except to get up for something to eat once each day for about a week. Low-grade fever, aching, continuing cough, etc. However, there are more pleasant things so we decided in the fall of'95 to undergo the flu shot - neither of us had had one for at least 40 years. I was 63 and retired. Have had blood pressure problems for 25 years & some heart arhythmia, but no general symptoms and pretty much do as I wish (Had never been hospitalized a day in my life).. We both received one injection of Parke-Davis' "Fluogen" vaccine. Were told to come for a second one in two weeks since it had been so long since being vaccinated. Neither of us have returned for that second shot, nor will we ever do so.
I assume we were given vaccine from the same vial. I went first and noticed the nurse agitating the vial. I could see thru the liquid against the backlight of the fridge interior light and noticed some light particulate moving thru the liquid. I know some vaccines appear this way & was not concerned. Martha was injected in the upper left arm and had some soreness for several days. My injection was to the upper left muscle on top of the shoulder. The only effect I noted was the other shoulder muscle was a little sore the next day. The shots were given on 9/21/95. Martha had no further problems. On 10/1/95 I awoke with everything tasting as if I had a mouthful of salt .This went on all day. On the morning of 10/2/95 I noticed that everything tasted bad (no longer salty). Even water tasted strange. Later I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and started in cold water - it felt hot. When it warmed to lukewarm it was excruciating. Carpal tunnel syndrome had returned to my wrists. This had not bothered during the seven years since my retirement . Later that afternoon I went to check the mailbox feeling okay, but was so weak on the return trip I barely made it back into the house. Never mind - all will be well tomorrow.
On the morning of 10/3/95 Martha had to pull me out of bed. I could not get to a sitting position even by extending my legs over the side of the bed and using them as a counter-weight. Went to the bathroom to prepare for a doctor visit and somehow wound up on the floor unable to get up. With my arms extended backward behind me and bouncing on my backside I managed to get to the den. By placing my hands on the low couch behind me and pushing hard with my feet & legs was able to get to a setting position on the couch. As I dressed Martha pulled the car across the sidewalk just beyond the porch & left the door open. With my hands on her shoulders, I was able to rise from the couch and follow her to the car.
Having called in advance the doctor's office met me with a wheelchair. Wheeled into an examining room, first check was blood pressure - over the moon. Had tried to check it the night before but could not get my machine pumped high enough to get a systolic (upper) reading & assumed the machine was broken. They immediately arranged a hospital room (just across the driveway) & I was wheeled over & checked in.
Two days of testing which included blood workups, urinalyses, X-rays, CATscan & MRI I was finally diagnosed with a spinal tap which revealed high protein in the spinal fluid. Evaluation was AIDP & it was on to ICU. About the third day in ICU my breathing declined & I was ventilated. In the 30 days in ICU (15 with the ventilator in place) I would estimate my conscious time at not more than 2 hours and that was marginal. I was pronounced paraplegic at one point, being able to move only my toes very slightly. Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange) did nothing for me. However, three small infusions of IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin) & body movement returned. A fourth infusion did very little and the fifth was canceled. I came to in Rehab a day later with some slight paralysis to both hands but was told I would be unable to walk. In my first trip to Physical Therapy I could not even rise to stand on the parallel bars (too weak from 30 days with no food other than albumin 5% on the IV. However, on the second day I rose & walked the length of the bars. Two days later I was on the walker and I walked from the hospital without aid on the 21st day of Rehab. I am left with feet which still feel stiff (they are not), good walking ability on smooth surfaces (not so good on rough or slanted terrain), hands that are sometimes a little stiff and tingle, as do the feet. In ICU I encountered blood pressures in the high 200's and as low as 34 (deadly). I encountered 5 blood clots which had to be dissolved and had a vena cava filter installed to catch any clot fragments which entered the bloodstream. This will remain for the balance of my life.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a dangerous, potentially deadly condition with long-term after effects. Persons contemplating the influenza shot should be made aware that this is an always present possibility, and need to realize that GBS is not some mild reaction, but is rather a hard paralysis capable of bringing on death, disability and severe illness.