MFS – 1 Year Anniversary

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      Miika Junttila
      Participant

      Today marks the first anniversary of my sickness. It was exactly one year ago, 11 August 2019 when I was taken to a hospital in Bali, Indonesia.

      I had been travelling with my girlfriend for a little over a week. The trip had been awful right from the start. Our relationship was at a breaking point and I had announced to her I didn’t want to see her again after the trip as I had been seeing someone else behind her back. I got a minor stomach bug after the first couple of days but it passed after a few days and didn’t really hinder me much. The most annoying thing was terrible stomach cramps which kept me from eating.

      After we had arrived in Bali we took a trip to the close by Gili islands. On our way back I started to feel cold and feverish in the boat and numbness on my right hand fingers. I didn’t think too much about it but apparently in the evening (I don’t remember this anymore) I had trouble standing properly. The next morning when I woke up, I wasn’t able to walk and I thought it would just pass by if I rest a little. After a couple of hours rest nothing had changed so we decided to go to a close by GP.

      I was afraid they would not take me seriously as I was being held upright and looked like I was completely wasted. Luckily the GP referred me straight to a hospital with a neurologist which wasn’t a given since it was Sunday.

      We got to the hospital shortly after and within an hour or so, I started to get numb all over my legs and arms and had trouble talking. I then decided (God knows why) to post a video on Facebook sitting on a wheelchair explaining my symptoms. After that I more or less blacked out.

      I only remember bits and pieces of my time in the hospital. I remember trying to get up and falling on my face as my legs wouldn’t work. I remember blood tests, spinal fluid and brain scans and when my girlfriend was with me but I could hardly see and at the worst point she was no longer able to understand me. I kept cautioning her about the doctors and that the level of medical care might not be that good, but luckily, they did all the right tests and ultimately ended up giving me immunoglobulin for five days. I had stop eating after a couple of days and was put on a tube. I dont remember being in pain but I screamed in a delirium 24/7 for several days. I desperately wanted to get home but remember being concerned that I might not be fit to fly.

      I completely lost track of time and was in the ICU for a total of 8 days whereas I was absolutely convinced I had been there only three or maximum four days. The immunoglobulin worked really fast and my company stepped in to help out with travel and transfer arrangements as my girlfriend had to return back home to Finland. Just before she left, my colleague came from Jakarta to see me to an ambulance flight over to Singapore where I was welcomed with my other colleagues and friends – benefits of a long career in an international company! 🙂

      I heard later on that the neurologist in Bali had said that I would be fit to fly after a week once they had given me the immunoglobulin and I ended up being transferred after five days. In Singapore, I was no longer delirious but was hit more hard about the sickness mentally once I realized the state that I was in. I still did not see properly. In fact, I did not see any of the colleagues who visited me but I recognized them by voice. I was able to move my arms and legs a little but they didn’t allow me to get up or go to toilet. That was the hardest and most challenging part mentally. I now realized I was kept in diapers and totally dependent on other people’s help and support. I had never been so helpless in my entire life! There I was, a well paid director of a big multinational corporation in a baby-like state.

      After 5 more days in the hospital, and once I got a greenlight to fly back to Finland, I was still nervous as I didn’t feel I could manage a 12 hour flight. I had been up the first time in 2 week that morning and was like a bambi on ice without any control of my muscles or movement. Once I got to the plain, things got much easier as I was able to travel in business and lie down. I slept almost the entire flight.

      Once I got back to Finland I started to improve at a massive speed despite the fact that I had contracted a hospital-acquired infection from Bali which had to be treated with IV antibiotics. Although I got really good speech and physiotherapy in Singapore, the approach and style changed completely: rather than being helped to eat, I now had to try on my own (which of course I was happy to do). I soon realized I could be helped to the toilet and shower and that I could stand up short intervals. My muscles started to come alive quickly, most likely thanks to my prior sports and exercise hobbies.

      I was able to walk without assistance less than two weeks after the immunoglobuline treatment was stopped and my intensive physio and functional therapy sessions stopped not long after that. Most of my therapy ended up being neuropsychological as my brain had also suffered from the infection. My short term memory was very bad in the beginning and I had trouble remembering some words, catching football etc. Luckily, I had an excellent neuropsychologist and we kept continuing our sessions for about a month or so.

      Based on the testing and my own analysis, I consider that I fully recovered by late September so in about 7 weeks or so.

      Thinking back – and this is what I often said to my therapists, as well – this has been perhaps the best experience in my life so far. Not only because of the full recovery, but this also put a lot of other things in my life into the right perspective and context. I was taken care of by some many people, including my girlfriend without whom I could have not survived. She took care of me despite all that had happened. I had never experienced or seen anything like that before. I ended up making radial changes in my life afterwards, including quitting my job and starting my own company, developing a long-lost interest in reading, etc.

      One thing I would like to highlight and which I also often discussed with my therapists was my own willingness to recover. As soon as I was able, I started doing exercises on the hospital bed to get my muscles working. I also ended up spending most of my spare time doing different kinds of exercises for the brain (reading, playing) and my motorics (crossword puzzles, etc.). I also had a lot of visitors to help my speech, memory and take me out for walks. I had someone visiting me every day for the first 3-4 weeks. This was vital.

      Equally important, however, was that I was mentally convinced I would recover and get better. Mind is a wonderful and complex machine and if you set your mind on something, I am convinced you can achieve it – no matter the circumstances. Without a positive mindset, no recovery is possible.

      All the best for you in your journey and God bless!

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