News Online: Edmonton family prays for young mother’s recovery from paralysis

Published online at on March 10, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Thursday, March 10, 2011

Edmonton family prays for young mother’s recovery from paralysis

It’s been a struggle of a lifetime for one Edmonton family.

For the past two weeks, Holly Gerlach has laid motionless in a hospital bed at the Grey Nuns Hospital.

Holly is paralyzed.

But just two weeks before she was healthy and happy. In fact, she had just given birth to baby daughter Casey Marie.

Shortly after the birth, Holly suddenly became sick.

“On Feb. 21, she turned her head and realized she had a really sore neck and then it started to progress, by the end of the night her fingers and toes were numb,” said Holly’s husband James.

“She’s progressively getting worse and worse and worse.”

Holly has Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Protein antibodies have wrapped around her nerve endings and in response, her immune system is defending by attacking her nervous system — paralyzing her more and more with every day that passes.

“It’s gotten the point now where she has no movement below her neck. Her face is starting to get paralyzed, her lips are a lot harder to read now, her eyes… they’re not moving as well either,” James said.

While there’s no official cure for the syndrome, in time, doctors say symptoms do start to diminish and patients typically will begin to recover.

Still, as there’s no time frame for that recovery, friends and family say all they can do now is wait for Holly to recover.

Holly’s mother Marilyn Rose has been by her daughter’s side since she became paraylzed.

“She doesn’t like to be alone,” Rose said. “She feels obviously trapped and claustrophobic and so being there for her 24/7 is one thing we can do.”

Staff at the Grey Nuns have also helped the family by turning an unused storage room into a retreat for the Gerlach’s.

“They’ve been extremely accomodating and just unbelievably caring for our situation,” James said. “They gave us this little room which is kind of like our home away from home right now but it helps us make due.”

Still despite the accomodations, friends say the Gerlach family’s crisis is unbearable to see.

“Holly’s mom hasn’t left. James has a newborn and he wasn’t really preparing to stay at home right now either, so him waking up all hours of the night to feed the baby, and Marilyn staying with Holly,” said Deanne Macangus, Holly’s friend.

“It’s just been crazy, so all of us are trying to do whatever we can to help them out.”

For now all the family can do is try and cope with the situation, hoping and praying that the young mother will recover soon.

“I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Marilyn said. “It feels like a very long tunnel right now, but there is a light.”

With files from Shane Jones

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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