Joburg dad’s battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome and the extraordinary nurse who helped him

Craig Taylor lost all muscle function, including the ability to breathe for himself, due to Guillain-Barre syndrome and shares his story of survival and gratitude after his long recovery at Netcare Rosebank Hospital. Picture: Supplied

Craig Taylor lost all muscle function, including the ability to breathe for himself, due to Guillain-Barre syndrome and shares his story of survival and gratitude after his long recovery at Netcare Rosebank Hospital. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 30, 2023

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In an extraordinary account of survival and the human spirit, a Johannesburg man has detailed his intense struggle with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare, rapid-onset neurological disorder that left him completely paralysed.

While Craig Taylor’s story unfolded within the walls of Netcare Rosebank Hospital, it was not just his own but also a tribute to the extraordinary individuals like Nurse Rosemary Mokoena, affectionately known as Rose, who stood by his side.

Taylor vividly remembers the terrifying initial days post-ICU transfer, totally immobilised by GBS, which had stripped him of all muscle function within a mere four days.

Nurse Mokoena's first task was to instill the belief that he would survive the night, a monumental challenge given Taylor's inability to even signal for help or communicate effectively.

Nurse Rosemary Mokoena is sorely missed by all who knew her at Netcare Rosebank Hospital after she tragically passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Supplied

Dr Michael Isaacs, Taylor's neurologist, explains that GBS can be triggered by the immune system mistakenly attacking nerve proteins in its response to an infection, often a gastric one.

The syndrome varies in severity; while some may only experience tingling sensations, others, like Taylor, may endure complete sensory and motor function loss, requiring artificial ventilation.

The path to recovery was slow and excruciating. Taylor describes the ordeal of learning to sit again as "epic"—a battle against overwhelming pain and the mental fortitude to endure it.

It was Nurse Mokoena's steadfast refusal to ease his discomfort prematurely that pushed him to meet and, ultimately, exceed rehabilitation milestones.

Father-of-four Craig Taylor is pictured with his son, Andrew, after being discharged from hospital on his road to recovery. Picture: Supplied

Her presence and words of encouragement became a beacon of hope in his darkest moments.

The journey was arduous, marked by incremental gains in movement and sensation as well as an evolving appreciation for medical professionals.

Taylor's experience transformed his view of healthcare workers, whom he now regards as heroes deserving of the utmost respect and love.

Yet, this story is tinged with tragedy as the revered Nurse Mokoena's life was taken by Covid-19.

Her legacy endures in the lives of the patients she cared for and in the hearts of her colleagues.

The bond she formed with her patients, like Taylor, serves as a testament to the profound impact of empathy and dedication in healthcare.

Taylor's recovery is a story of determination but also a sombre reminder of the personal costs of the pandemic.

In his final words, he expresses a poignant desire for others to encounter the same compassionate care he received, a care that Nurse Mokoena personified throughout her career.

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