It’s been a year since I was diagnosed with GBS. For a while, I could not do the simple things like zip my pants, tie my shoes, handle eating utensils. My wife put key rings on my zippers so I could hook my fingers there and pull. She managed to make a set of eating utensils with big handles and I bought a set of velcro tie shoes. By December, I was able to tie shoes, eat normally and zip up.
But now, after a year, I still have severe numbness and loss of strength in my hands. My little fingers are toast, with no feeling or ability to move. The muscle that controls my thumbs is still out to lunch and I have a concavity where the muscle used to be. Muscles just don’t like having their nerves not working. In addition, both arms have lost strength. My right arm is developing the Popeye look as the forearm muscles – which work – struggle to compensate for the right bicep – which does not work. I can’t raise my right arm above my head with any weight and have what is called ‘winging’ with my right scapula. The left side is affected, but less so.
Despite all this, I have continued my woodworking and wood turning. At the end of a day, I am exhausted and my hands feel swollen and are quite painful. I’m 70 now, and am probably suffering from some age related problems, but I ascribe any recovery from this malicious malady to my continued passion for building things and turning bowls. The constant movement, the need to use tools, to use fingers that don’t work well, to find new ways to do tasks – are all helpful in the healing process.
Maybe I’ll never get the feeling back in my hands completely. Maybe the pain will stay with me the rest of my life. Maybe the axons won’t repair themselves. Despite this, I feel that this terrible affliction has a silver lining. I thank the gods for every day and have a drive to contribute to society in some way each day that was not there before. With great pain comes appreciation of life. Those that experience GBS, cancer or other afflictions have a greater appreciation of the blessings of each day.
The Northern Guitar Guy – someone who helped me in dark moments – goes off to play his guitar. I’m turning a bowl or building a piece of furniture. Numb hands or not, I’m doing what I can.