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Jogger is left paralysed for a month with terrifying ‘locked-in syndrome’

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A jogger who noticed she had pins and needles while running was left paralysed and ‘locked in’ to her body for a month with no means of communicating after feeling the tingles for 24 hours.

Pharmacist Anstey Campbell, from New Zealand’s North Island, decided to start the morning of January 17 with a light jog before heading off to work, noticing that the prickling sensation hadn’t subsided by lunchtime.

‘By mid-afternoon it had spread to my fingertips so I went and saw a GP because I thought it was weird,’ the 29-year-old said. 

‘He suggested that it was anxiety and to return the following day if it hadn’t improved.’

But she didn’t get the chance, as her body deteriorated overnight and left her with chest and stomach pain that led to a frantic hospital visit.

From healthy to hospital-bound in 24 hours: Anstey Campbell was diagnosed with a rare syndrome after feeling 'pins and needles' in January (pictured before and in hospital)

From healthy to hospital-bound in 24 hours: Anstey Campbell was diagnosed with a rare syndrome after feeling ‘pins and needles’ in January (pictured before and in hospital)

Ms Campbell was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in January after her GP thought she might just be suffering from anxiety (pictured with her husband Levi)

Ms Campbell was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in January after her GP thought she might just be suffering from anxiety (pictured with her husband Levi)

What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)?

* GBS is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system attacking the nervous system.

* The first symptoms are usually painful tingles in the feet or hands, often called ‘pins and needles’.

* The main treatment options are blood transfusions and physical therapy. 

‘A feeling of weakness was spreading to my upper body and face by this time,’ she said.

‘Within 15 minutes the doctor diagnosed me with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and referred me to the emergency department of our nearest major hospital.’

GBS is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system attacking the nervous system. 

The first symptoms are usually painful tingles in the feet or hands, just like Ms Campbell was experiencing.  

Ms Campbell spent one month being 'locked in' to her body, unable to communicate with her family or doctors (pictured with Levi)

Ms Campbell spent one month being ‘locked in’ to her body, unable to communicate with her family or doctors (pictured with Levi)

The 29-year-old pharmacist was put on a ventilator for 86 days in total (pictured with her husband Levi in hospital)

The 29-year-old pharmacist was put on a ventilator for 86 days in total (pictured with her husband Levi in hospital)

‘Over the course of the day I slowly became paralysed from the legs to the top of my head. By the time I was intubated I was so weak I could barely open my eyelids,’ she said. 

As her breath grew shallow, doctors decided to place Ms Campbell into a coma to help protect her lungs from further damage. 

A few days later Ms Campbell was given a tracheostomy – an incision in the neck – and put on a ventilator for 86 days.

‘After around a week of being fully out, the doctors lowered my sedation and from what they saw I was completely unresponsive, but I was actually locked in,’ she said.

‘It was the most terrifying thing imaginable.’

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Locked In Syndrome (LiS) involves the patient’s consciousness and cortical functions remaining normal but with a complete inability to move or convey awareness.

‘I remember the doctors tried all these tests to get some sort of response and it was really terrifying when I realised I was stuck inside. I was trying to do what they were telling me to, but nothing was happening,’ she said.

With her eyes permanently shut the only way to establish whether it was day or night was to try and figure out how many visitors were in the room

The very first movement that returned was a small twitch in her jaw

Ms Campbell was uncomfortable while she was locked in (left) – and often in pain – but was unable to tell anyone about it

The New Zealand resident lived a happy and healthy life before she was struck down by illness

The New Zealand resident lived a happy and healthy life before she was struck down by illness

‘I remember the doctor pushing hard on my brow bone to try and make my eyes open, it was so painful and all I was saying inside was “stop.”‘

Ms Campbell was uncomfortable – and often in pain – but was unable to tell anyone about it.

With her eyes permanently shut the only way to establish whether it was day or night was to try and figure out how many visitors were in the room. 

After four weeks the first movement she got back was in her jaw, and she started to twitch once to mean ‘yes’ and twice to mean ‘no’.

‘When I woke up, I was told that I had been quite sick, and my case was on the severe side so it would take me while to get off the ventilator and breathe for myself,’ she said.

Slowly back to normal: 'When I woke up, I was told that I had been quite sick, and my case was on the severe side so it would take me while to get off the ventilator and breathe for myself,' she said

Slowly back to normal: ‘When I woke up, I was told that I had been quite sick, and my case was on the severe side so it would take me while to get off the ventilator and breathe for myself,’ she said

Ms Campbell is still an impatient 10 months after going on that fateful run in January

Ms Campbell is still an impatient 10 months after going on that fateful run in January

Ms Campbell is still in hospital 10 months after her injury but is allowed to return home each weekend for a break. 

She has regained some strength in her upper body and recovered movement since doing physiotherapy twice a day for the last six months. 

‘Some doctors have been positive and said I will regain most, if not all, of my function whereas others have said I’ll be in a wheelchair for a long time. But the common theme is that my recovery will take a long time,’ she said.

She can’t grip anything with her hands yet and she can’t stand unaided but with time Ms Campbell is hoping to move on her own.

The main treatment plan for GBS are blood transfusions and physical therapy. 

‘I have spent a lot of time asking why this happened to me, but it got me nowhere except feeling resentment towards the hand I’ve been dealt,’ she said.

‘If something unexpected happens in life, let go of the life you had planned and accept the new story you get to write.’ 

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