Please accept my apologies for my prolonged absence. I was called away on a top-secret assignment: under-cover I had to go and test the food at a local hospital. My commentary about the food will follow in due course, but first I want to tell you about a woman in my ward, her name is Zaskia and she was paralysed when I met her.
Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) (French pronunciation: [ɡiˈlɛ̃ baˈʁe], English pronunciation: /ˈɡiːlænˈbɑreɪ/), sometimes called Landry’s paralysis, is an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP), a disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system. Ascending paralysis, weakness beginning in the feet and hands and migrating towards the trunk, is the most typical symptom. It can cause life-threatening complications, particularly if the breathing muscles are affected or if there is dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. The disease is usually triggered by an acute infection. Guillain–Barré syndrome is a form of peripheral neuropathy.
The diagnosis is usually made by nerve conduction studies. With prompt treatment by intravenous immunoglobulins or plasmapheresis, together with supportive care, the majority will recover completely. Guillain–Barré syndrome is rare, at 1–2 cases per 100,000 people annually, but is one of the leading causes of acute non-trauma-related paralysis in the world. The syndrome is named after the French physicians Georges Guillain and Jean Alexandre Barré, who described it in 1916.
Pretty glum, wouldn’t you say? However, in the face of my shame at my self-pity at being hospitalized for what I consider a trivial and self-indulgent malady, Zaskia strove to lift the spirits of all the patients in the ward while she waited patiently for the arrival of the intravenous plasma that would – hopefully – cure her.
Said medication duly arrived and watching Zaskia’s miraculous recovery was a lesson in the triumph of faith in the face of great adversity.
I left the hospital after sitting in the sunshine in a courtyard with Zaskia; she had walked from her bed unaided.
She says she craves avocado; please excuse me for a while; I have a salad to deliver …