By Dr. Roy Hadden
To quote the late Mark Twain: “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
If COVID hasn't been enough to alter life at Valley Animal Hospital, at noon on Friday, March 5, while starting a Caesarian section on a 150-pound mastiff, I noticed my left foot felt a little numb. I kicked off my shoe thinking it was just tied too tightly or my sciatic nerve was acting up again. Two hours later after sending mom and all three live puppies home, I noticed my right foot was feeling the same way.
No problem, threw on my barn boots and headed out on farm calls. By the time I finished up and got home at 8 p.m., Amy said I was walking as if I were intoxicated. Again, no problem, ate dinner and stumbled up the stairs to bed. Saturday morning, I woke up at my regular 5 a.m. and knew I was in trouble. I could barely walk, couldn't feel my feet and both hands were numb. After being reminded by my darling wife that I should have gone to the hospital the night before, she loaded me in the Q5 and we headed out.
Nine hours of bloodwork, CTs, spinal taps and my favorite: EMG (think of being shocked with a cattle prod for 30 minutes) I was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. By now I was paralyzed from the waist down and didn't have the strength in my upper body to push myself up in the bed. After the discussion about intubation, a respirator and needing permission to hit me with the atrial defibrillators if necessary, I kissed Amy goodbye (thanks again COVID -- no visitors allowed) and they wheeled me off to the neurology ward.
Apparently, the biggest concern with Guillain-Barre (GBS) is its unpredictability. Symptoms can progress for sometimes up to 14 days. The more frustrating news is that recovery, although often complete, is even more unpredictable: days, weeks, months. Only time will tell. Which brings me to the point of this letter.
Thanks to my devoted team: Donna, Kim, Jess, Alex and Greg, the clinic will remain open. Dr. Jane O'Donnell, who many of you know from filling in for me in the past, has generously offered to cover appointments a few days a week in an attempt to provide some semblance of order, I would ask that you please be patient when you call.
On a brighter note, today is day five of my IVIG treatment (I'm sure everyone has Googled GBS by now) and most of the feeling is already back in my hands. I stood yesterday with some assistance, but walking is a long way off. Neurologist says I am a bit of a freak -- should still be getting worse and already getting better -- but those who know me already knew that.
That being said your 15-minute appointment with me is running over because I talk too much and the waiting room is full. I do miss those pre-COVID days! Thank you to everyone who has already reached out, to those of you who will, my staff and colleagues who are keeping the place going and most importantly Amy who has been and will continue to be the hardest hit by this. Love you guys.
Dr. Hadden, DMV, is the proprietor of Valley Animal Hospital in Waitsfield.