Holly Gerlach from Edmonton, Canada, gave birth to her first child, Casey, at age 26. Becoming a mom was something she had dreamed about since she was a little girl. The birth went well and she was full of joy. But then her life took a sudden turn for the worse just a few weeks later.
It all started with a pain in her neck and a weakness in her legs. She went to the hospital and her condition worsened quickly. She became paralyzed from the neck down and was immediately put in the ICU.
Holly was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a very rare autoimmune disease that affects the nerves. She was hooked up to a respirator and it was clear that she was suffering horribly. At one stage, a nurse bent down close to her patient and Holly whispered in her ear, “I’m in so much pain.”
It was her newborn baby who gave her the strength she needed to go on and she did her best to try and connect with her child regularly despite the suffering she was enduring.
As she was unable to move her body, a lift had to be used to get her out of bed and into a chair every day. She could barely speak, and either used a board to communicate or sometimes mimed the words she was trying to say to her relatives and caregivers. She saw her daughter every single day, but it broke her heart that she couldn’t be the mother she wanted to be.
After weeks of practicing on a special breathing valve, something extraordinary happened which gave Holly the hope she so desperately sought: she was able to breathe on her own without the help of the ventilator. And gradually the paralysis in her hands started to fade. After 70 days she was taken out of intensive care — she could finally speak again and could sit up in a wheelchair.
Holly grew stronger every day and on day 78 she began physiotherapy, where she started to exercise her legs. On day 87, she got up for the first time in three months.
She practiced her fine motor skills and continued to exercise the muscles in her arms until she was strong enough…
… to hold and feed her baby who was now four months old!
Holly also gained the strength back in her legs, training them twice a day until she took her first steps on day 94. At first she needed a great deal of the help and support from the nurses, but soon enough she progressed to the walker. Finally, on day 126, she returned home.
She had to learn how to do everything all by herself again, including brushing her hair and teeth, writing, eating with utensils and walking. But if that wasn’t enough, just look at what she managed to do just one year later…
Holly was in better shape than ever! And now she lives her life to the fullest, which for a time was impossible. With her willpower and sheer strength Holly was able to overcome a disease that almost took her life. Were it not for her daughter, loved ones and the invaluable help of the many health professionals, she may not have found her Happily Ever After. But one thing’s for sure: no one could be more deserving of it.
Such a moving story like Holly’s is sure to help inspire determination and courage in others who are going through a rough time. We hope she enjoys many years of happiness with her daughter and family!