Community Supports Firefighter with GBS

Ryan Smith has always been tenacious in pursuing his goals. One of his most important goals? Supporting his family and his community. As a lieutenant with the Stillwater Fire Department, and an employee with Homeland Security and Emergency Management with the state of Minnesota, Ryan works to coordinate federal disaster relief, fight fires, and make his state safer for all residents. However, it’s now his community that is rallying behind Ryan after he was diagnosed with a rare form of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).

According to Fox9, Ryan was traveling for work when he contracted a virus. When he returned home from his trip, his family thought that he might have COVID-19. After all, he was showing many of the symptoms: body aches, an extremely sore throat, a fever, and a headache. Just days later, however, Ryan’s condition worsened. He began experiencing facial and neck paralysis which prevented him from breathing, eating, or swallowing. 

According to the GoFundMe page for Ryan and his wife Priscilla, Ryan required the use of a PEG feeding tube and a tracheotomy tube. In a post on his CaringBridge page, Priscilla shares that Ryan has started working towards recovery, with Ryan adding:

I know everyone has been there for me and my family [and] I am so blessed to have everyone there for me. It was so powerful and emotional to see so many supporting me in my time of need.

If you would like to donate funds to help Ryan and Priscilla with medical costs, lost wages, and other needs during this time, please consider donating to the GoFundMe page

What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)?

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system, or the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. While the exact cause of GBS remains unclear, the attack typically follows a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection (though it may also, in rarer cases, be triggered by surgery). An estimated 1 in every 100,000 people develops GBS. It is extremely variable, with cause, severity, and recovery differing from patient to patient. While a majority of individuals recover from this disorder, recovery may last from a few weeks up to a few years. Up to 30% of individuals also experience muscle weakness past three years. Symptoms can (but do not always) include:

  • Tingling and weakness in the legs which intensifies and spreads to the arms and torso
  • Leg or back pain
  • Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • Problems with balance and coordination 
  • Abnormal heart rate or blood pressure 
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing, or chewing
  • Issues with bladder or bowel control
  • Paralysis (in severe cases) which can become life-threatening
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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