Paralyzed with Pompe Disease, He Took Control, Gained Strength, and Increased Muscle


It was the second time 26-year-old Bruce Campbell had to deal with paralysis. At the age of six, he was paralyzed by Guillian-Barre syndrome which caused an attack on his nervous system by his immune system.

A recent article in the Rare Disease Advisor chronicles the rest of his life as he was diagnosed with Pompe disease in his adult years.

Bruce has believed that it is a gift to be able to participate in sports. It is a driving force in his life. Thanks to his determination to actively participate in sports, Bruce is still able to surf, cycle, and swim with his friends.

A Work in Progress

Bruce was diagnosed with adult-onset Pompe disease. It is a rare, inherited disorder that is caused by the abnormal buildup of glycogen found in cells. He was told that the disease would get progressively worse and to expect respiratory muscle weakness.

At the time of his diagnosis, the doctor cautioned Bruce to limit exercise as it would put him at further risk. The doctor’s advice had a chilling effect on Bruce. By his own admission, it was the most devasting news he could have received. Bruce fell into a deep depression. Prior to the diagnosis he had been struggling to walk, climb stairs, and manage constant, debilitating pain.

The diagnosis left Bruce in deep despair. Although he hit rock bottom, he still had some fight left in him. He realized that anything he did from that point would be a positive step forward.

His doctors were unable to give Bruce any constructive advice or medication that would help to relieve his symptoms. At the time, enzyme replacement therapy had not yet been approved for Pompe disease.

Bruce relied on his own sports science background to determine how glycogen accumulation was affecting his body. Most of the literature indicated that its accumulation was the major contributor to the body’s weakness. Bruce added that he is convinced exercise would not cause weakness.

A New Diet Made an Impact

Bruce was willing to experiment with small changes in his diet to eliminate as much glycogen as possible. That meant cutting out all carbohydrates and sugars. He began with a low-carbohydrate high-fat ketogenic diet which brought some improvement. He noticed that his pain was somewhat relieved, and his body was more efficient in converting fat to fuel. Now his body did not immediately target the glycogen.

He felt well enough to begin a short, daily exercise program. Bruce began a few laps in a pool and noticed that after almost five months he felt somewhat stronger. Swimming is well known to be easy on the joints and adds to lung capacity.

Bruce was unfamiliar with the effect over the long term of a diet high in fat. He began to test other diets with an emphasis on minimal carbohydrates. He experimented with several diets and noted their effect on his energy levels and his body’s response to pain.

At some point, Bruce became dissatisfied with the fluctuations occurring in his energy levels and went on to a plant-based diet. He noted that even though he was consuming a greater quantity of carbohydrates than he had in previous diets, he saw several positive effects for his pain levels and inflammation.

New Strength

Six months of a plant-based diet were evident in the blood tests. His doctor was surprised to see an improvement in his inflammation markers and liver enzymes. The doctor also acknowledged that Bruce’s muscle strength had improved.

Now, seven years later, Bruce is still on the plant-based diet as well as performing his daily exercise routines. Not only has it improved his muscle development, but he has gained the confidence to increase the exercise somewhat. He is working towards not only strengthening his body but improving his quality of life.

Bruce is an advocate for Pompe disease. He owns Aspire LiveFit, which is a coaching academy based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.


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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