Athlete Shares His Experience with GBS

Simeon Fryer was elected captain of the Texas A&M University Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) Islanders men’s basketball team for the 2022-23 season – and it’s a job that he takes very seriously. The Division I team currently competes in the Southland conference (and has taken home the tournament title), and has also joined in the big dance at March Madness. These challenges drive and unify the team – and the challenges he has faced, such as his Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) diagnosis, drive Simeon. 

Simeon’s Story

According to Kris 6 News, Simeon has been drawn to basketball for as long as he can remember. He began playing when he was around eight years old and has been hooked ever since. But his basketball dreams were interrupted in 2018 while he was a student at the Community College of Beaver County. Suddenly, he began experiencing some odd symptoms: general weakness, numbness of the legs, shortness of breath. A visit to the doctor also showed that his reflexes were not working properly.

Eventually, doctors diagnosed Simeon with GBS – which launched an entire treatment journey that was, at times, overwhelming. As his condition worsened, Simeon was admitted to the hospital, where he spent over two months being monitored. During this time period, Simeon developed Bell’s palsy, lost a significant amount of weight, and struggled with motor function. But Simeon eventually recovered (even though it took over 1.5 years). 

Simeon explained that his desire to provide for his family and play the sport that he loves helped him on the road to recovery. He practiced, strengthened his skills and his muscles, and joined the Islanders during his junior year of college. 

Now, Simeon hopes to inspire others who are going through tough times. He reminds people to persevere despite what life throws at them. And, of course, he’s persevering as well towards an important goal: returning to March Madness again this year. 

What is Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)? 

Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare and serious condition which causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the peripheral nervous system, or the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. While doctors know that the immune system attacks the myelin sheath (protective coating) of peripheral nerves, the exact cause of GBS is unknown. Some hypothesize that it is triggered by a viral infection. GBS is a variable condition and its course and severity are both unpredictable. Symptoms, which can intensify quickly, can include:

  • Tingling and weakness in the legs that progresses into the arms and torso
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty speaking, chewing, or swallowing
  • Pain that worsens at night
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty with bladder control or bowel function
  • Muscle paralysis which can be life-threatening

In many cases, patients reach their most significant weakness around two to three weeks following symptom onset. Treatment options include plasmapheresis, high-dose immunoglobulin therapy, and other tools such as ventilators or heart monitors to address any potential complications. Recovering from GBS can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. After three years, approximately 30% of those with GBS still experience muscle weakness. 

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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