In August 2014, at the age of 28, MARELI DU PLOOY was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. She shares her story with us.
“This all happened during a weekend away to Umhlanga with my boyfriend. Life was perfect. I was the mom of a then three-year-old, had just embarked on a new career in financial planning, had moved to a big house and was in a great relationship.
I was walking on the beach, feeling slightly unstable. I was experiencing numbness over my entire body. During the early hours of the next morning, I was rushed to hospital, as I’d collapsed on my way to the bathroom. Hours later, I was paralysed from my mouth down to my feet. Another few hours passed and I was being put on a ventilator as my lungs were failing.
The onset of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which is caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking the peripheral nerves and damaging their myelin insulation, was rapid and severe. Doctors expected me to recover anything from three to 12 months after the onset. However, unfortunately, this was not the case.
I spent three months on a ventilator in the Netcare Umhlanga Hospital ICU. Next, I was transferred to Bloemfontein, to the Rosepark ICU. After a week there, I went to rehab – still fully paralysed and in a lot of pain.
Six weeks later, it was time to go home. I was very excited to be with my daughter at last, but it was a difficult transformation being back in ‘normal’ surroundings. Hours and hours of therapy per day started at home. Progress was slow, but, as time went by, I learnt to eat, go to the toilet, brush my teeth … the list goes on … again.
It is now 20 months later and I am still using a wheelchair, but I am very hopeful that I will walk again. I am also pain free! I am so grateful to be able to use my hands (although they are still weak). I am once again working in financial planning, continuing my studies and raising my beautiful daughter as a single mother.
Every afternoon after work, I drive myself to gym (which is 50 km away) where I continue my physiotherapy, biokinetics and water therapy. In 2017, I’m planning on swimming the Midmar Mile!
I may have lost my ‘perfect world’ due to GBS, but I gained so much more – strength, perseverance and a much stronger relationship with God. I have built myself a second chance.”