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Dad paralysed after ‘food poisoning’ turned out to be rare condition

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A father-of-four who suffered from food poisoning and a fever while sick for a few days was actually struck down by a “nightmare” syndrome that left him entirely paralysed. 

Asam Iqbal fell ill 11 months ago but deteriorated rapidly and ended up being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

GBS is a serious condition which affects the nerves and often starts with symptoms in people’s feet and hands, Yorkshire Live reports.

His brother, Asif Iqbal said Asam, from Keighley in West Yorkshire, had not been really eating or drinking much after falling ill with food poisoning, so they assumed he was struggling with weakness when he fell off the bed and couldn’t get up.

Asif said: “He had a fever. He was recovering from food poisoning. I went to see him and he didn’t look that well. When he fell off the bed he couldn’t get up. His wife and I had to get him back up. We thought it was weakness because he hadn’t eaten.”

However, Asif says as Asam’s condition deteriorated, they called 111 and were told a nurse would call back in eight hours. Asif said: “We thought it was too long so we called our cousin who is a doctor who came and said we had to call 999. We had to get him to the hospital. At this point, he could only move his upper body. It was a nightmare. When we got there later he couldn’t move his arms at all.”

At the hospital, the Iqbal family received a diagnosis that shocked them, being told Asam had GBS – a very rare condition that their cousin told them he had only ever seen or heard of once in his entire practising career. And things only got worse from there.

Asif says they were told Asam had an overactive thyroid and needed to be put into a comma. He said: “He has an overactive thyroid. It made it worse. A decision was made to put him in a comma.”

And Asif says their misfortune did not just end there, as their mother was admitted to hospital just hours later with a twisted bowel which required surgery, and left her in the same ICU as her son Asam.

Asif said running errands between two ICU wards was difficult.

“His mother was admitted with a twisted bowel the next day,” he said. “My sister and I were running around. We couldn’t tell either of them. We could not worry about them. My mother got out after 6 weeks. She had surgery. My mother was trying to ring him in the hospital. Saying she doesn’t understand why he hasn’t come to see her. We had to lie that he didn’t have his phone. We couldn’t get hold of him.

“It was hard. ICU was hard for us as a family. Both my mum and my brother. Seeing your family member like that.”

Thankfully, their mother made it out of the hospital just as Asam came out of the coma. Asam, who is still in hospital 11 months after falling ill, says being in a coma was a terrifying out-of-body experience.

He said: “I was in a coma for six weeks. It was only after around two months that I realised what was going on and what had happened.

“And at the time I could not talk and I had lost the use of my neck. Being in a coma is a weird experience, it is like living in a different world altogether. It’s one hell of an experience.”

Asam, who is still paralysed, says he misses the simple things in life. He said: “It’s been a long time. I am trying to just get on it. It’s hard to describe everything, especially when it has been this long. The illness is getting better slowly. There’s no quick fix.

“Of course, you miss everything. Driving the car, walking the shop, going to the barbers – you miss everything.”

Asam is on the mend, though he is still far from recovery. He has a new perspective on life too and says he won’t dwell on what is happening. He said: “You can’t sit and think about everything, you’ve got to forget about the outside. You just learn to adapt, don’t you? You can’t let your mind take control. You can’t latch onto that.” 

And he has demonstrated his big heart and willpower. Asam raised more than £3,000 for the NHS by cycling while in his wheelchair.

But to fully recover his body functions, he needs physiotherapy, which at the moment, he is unable to get fully, due to the pressure on the NHS.

His family has launched a GoFundMe which they want to use to secure private physiotherapy sessions they say have shown they can help Asam.

Asif said: “The ICU staff were amazing. He was there for 5 months. He couldn’t move when he woke up. He could not speak. We couldn’t hear what he was saying. It was difficult for us when we visited. The hospital got a speech therapist and after 5 months he started improving. He started getting his voice back. He has got some movements here and there.

“He is recovering but he needs therapy. The hospital is full at the moment. They are understaffed. We can’t get him booked in for sessions.”

But, regardless of what happens, Asam maintains a positive outlook on life which is infectious. He said: “I wake up with a smile every day. People out there can’t even do that.”

To help Asam get the physiotherapy he needs, click here.

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