Man Struggling To Recover After Being Stricken with Guillain-Barre Syndrome

The very rare disorder affects nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and paralysis

Fifty-six-year-old Michael has a feeding tube hooked up to his body and has been attempting to learn how to walk again.

This is a far cry from his life three months ago.

"I was a body builder lifting weights and in tremendous shape," he told NBC 6 South Florida.

Michael, who did not want to give his last name, was paralyzed from the neck down, was on a ventilator over a month, and even got pneumonia. His wife Isabelle Stec has been by his side the whole time.

"You're a perfectly normal person, the next thing you know you're paralyzed," she said.

Michael and his wife said doctors in the emergency room at Mercy Hospital immediately asked if her husband had gotten a flu shot when he came in, unable to stand. The couple confirmed he had.

Doctors diagnosed him with Guillain-Barre syndrome. It's a very rare disorder in which your own immune system damages your nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and paralysis, and tends to affect those older than 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu Outbreak Clogs Doctors' Offices

With flu outbreaks happening around the nation, the CDC has urged everyone to get vaccinated. It's the best preventative measure against the flu. The elderly, those with diabetes and those with health issues are particularly vulnerable.

"There is concern and it’s a valid concern from the community," said Dr. Alvaro Mejia-Echeverry with the Miami-Dade Health Department.

But GBS is very rare, according to Echeverry.

"We don't know of cases of Guillain-Barre associated with the vaccine. It's more associated with the disease than with the vaccine," he added.

In fact, the majority of the people who do get it, contract it in the days or weeks after being ill with diarrhea or another respiratory illness.

NBC 6 Videos

That’s why Echeverry emphasizes that it is crucial for Americans to heed the warning to get the vaccine.

“This influenza season seems to be an active one, and the best way to prevent it is by receiving the vaccine every year,” he said.

Still, Michael and his wife said they want to share their story so people can be aware and prepared before they get the shot.

"The question is, would you get another flu shot, Mike? The answer is absolutely not,” he said.

His health is improving, though it may take months or even a year for Michael to regain control of his body. He and his wife remain optimistic he will recover.

According to the CDC, there are about 3,000 to 6,000 people who develop GBS in the U.S. every year, whether or not they are vaccinated. One study that found an association between the flu shot and GBS suggested that just one in a million people who got the flu shot might be at risk of GBS associated with the vaccine.

More Health News

Contact Us