A Utah Man Finds Himself Paralyzed by Guillain-Barré Syndrome and Stranded in India

William Frackrell’s desire to serve his country was born out of his years as a boy scout and his military career. Then, according to a FOX 13 exclusive with William’s sister Brandy Nelson, in 2019 William decided to leave Utah to study Buddhism in Nepal, India.

Everything was going well with his new vocation, until one day in the latter part of March 2020 William suddenly became unable to move or speak. William was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). His immune system had attacked his nervous system and he was completely paralyzed. William’s family had begun planning his return home.

But when William’s condition worsened, and he was put on a ventilator, all hopes of returning home vanished. In order for him to fly home, he would need a plane with special equipment and staff. The cost of an air ambulance was prohibitive considering his family’s financial circumstances.

Although William is getting excellent care in the Nepal hospital, his family is struggling to pay his medical expenses since they are not incurred in the U.S.

In the meantime, the family is sending one of  William’s sons to Nepal to be with him until other arrangements can be worked out.

Although about 75% of GBS patients eventually recover, the period of recovery may take anywhere from one to three years or longer.

Now that William is on a ventilator, he is even more isolated from his family. Previously they were able to communicate with him on social media. The family has been in contact with Utah senators, hoping they would be instrumental in bringing William home.

About Guillain-Barre Syndrome

According to a definition issued by the National Institute of Health, the nerves situated outside the spinal cord and brain belong to the peripheral nervous system. GBS is a neurological disorder whereby the immune system inadvertently attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.

GBS symptoms may range from mild to devastating paralysis requiring a device to help the patient breathe. GBS is a post-infection disease that affects one person in 100,000 and can strike at any age. Eventually, with proper diagnosis and treatment, most patients recover.

The Cause of GBS

Researchers have not yet come to a decision about the cause of GBS or why it occurs in some people. They do know however that it is not inherited nor contagious.

There are some theories that the disease may occur as a result of the immune system protecting the body against infection. GBS is called an autoimmune disorder because the damage is caused by the body’s own immune system.

In the normal course of events, antibodies are used by the immune system together with white blood cells to attack viruses and bacteria. In GBS, the immune system attacks nerves that are healthy.

Symptoms of GBS

GBS may appear suddenly causing muscle weakness and difficulty breathing. GBS may lead to paralysis in which case the disease is life-threatening.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pricking or pins and needles sensations in the hands and feet
  • Difficulty with eye muscles and vision
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Pain that can be severe, particularly at night
  • Coordination problems and unsteadiness
  • Abnormal heartbeat/rate or blood pressure
  • Problems with digestion and/or bladder control.

Pneumonia or other complications that may affect a paralyzed person usually create a need for specialized equipment and placing the patient in an intensive care unit.

About Treatment

Most patients eventually recover as paralysis is usually temporary. About one-quarter of GBS patients require an apparatus to breathe, and twenty percent are still not able to walk unaided after six months.

There are two treatments used currently that are effective if started within the first two weeks of the onset of GBS symptoms. One of the treatments is plasma exchange, which is a process similar to kidney dialysis. The second is high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy.

The value of IVIG therapy has not been established and plasma exchange has become the gold standard for comparison. Approximately seventy percent of GBS patients experience a full recovery.

A GoFundMe for William

William’s family is making every effort to get him home as soon as possible.

A GoFundMe has been set up for William to help pay for his medical care.

Rose Duesterwald

Rose Duesterwald

Rose became acquainted with Patient Worthy after her husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) six years ago. During this period of partial remission, Rose researched investigational drugs to be prepared in the event of a relapse. Her husband died February 12, 2021 with a rare and unexplained occurrence of liver cancer possibly unrelated to AML.

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