Joel was on spring break during his senior year at Covenant College when he developed a mild upper respiratory infection. Though his recovery was quick, a few days later he began to stumble around the house he shared with his college roommates. Concerned, Joel drove himself to an urgent care center, where he was told he had mononucleosis and was sent home. Joel’s condition continued to deteriorate as he went from medical center to medical center, certain that what was going on was worse than the doctors diagnosed. Finally, his six roommates carried him into the emergency room of the local hospital when Joel was unable to walk in himself. Joel woke up from a coma several weeks later after multiple rounds of heavy medication and therapy for what was discovered to be a rare form of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Joel was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia for rehabilitation. When he entered, he could not breathe on his own or move anything below his neck. With a very dedicated and attentive staff to help him regain his motor functioning, he began to feel “human again.” Like most others with Guillain-Barre, his prognosis for recovery was good. Within several days, he was breathing on his own; within weeks, he was talking again and could walk with the support of leg braces and a walker. Joel was making steps on his road to recovery.
Joel was discharged from the Shepherd Center and returned home to Roanoke, Virginia to continue therapy in an outpatient setting. His therapists there had never treated anyone with Guillain-Barre before and offered no options for continuing progress. Luckily a close family friend knew of The Gait Center, where therapists give patients an hour of undivided attention at each appointment and focus on helping those with complex problems. So Joel began making the three-hour drive each week to The Gait Center in Richmond, Virginia. With the skills and knowledge of The Gait Center staff, Joel progressed rapidly. “What makes The Gait Center different is a mix of caring and expertise,” Joel says. “David doesn’t have an overwhelming caseload, so he can focus on the patient. He doesn’t spend the whole time looking at a computer screen.” Joel has regained control of his hands, legs, and feet, and is working on strength, power, and agility in his limbs. He is even running 5Ks again, and has completed his senior year of college. Joel plans to attend seminary next fall to become a pastor or Christian counselor.