Paul’s inspirational journey to recovery
20 January 2012
Paul Jones looks a picture of health. But only a few months ago, the Southend University Hospital operating department practitioner was lying in one of the hospital’s critical care beds on a ventilator, unable to speak or move after suddenly being taken ill at work.
Paul, 55, recalled: "I was on the night shift getting ready to
transfer a patient. Gradually my arms just became weak and then I
could not physically lift up my foot to step into the ambulance
with the patient. I just thought I was really tired."
With pins and needles in his hands, he still finished his shift
and then went home to bed. When he got up, he fell to the floor
with chest pains and was taken back to the hospital's A&E where
he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare and serious
condition in which the immune system attacks the peripheral nervous
By then, Paul was having difficulty breathing. He spent the
night in a ward where a senior anaesthetist kept an eye on him all
night. The following day he was rushed to the critical care unit,
completely numb from the nose downwards.
He was put on a ventilator and had a tracheostomy fitted. Paul
then developed a severe chest infection and his blood pressure shot
He said: "All the time I was very aware of what was going on. I
knew I could have a stroke from the blood pressure and the noise of
the machines told me how much medication I was on. I know now it
was touch and go.
"It was very scary being unable to breathe or communicate. All I
could do was cry. It is very, very lonely inside your own
The event which spurred him to recovery was when his
one-year-old granddaughter Gabriella was allowed to come in to see
"I thought to myself 'I have got to get out to see her'."
After two weeks in the critical care unit, he was transferred to
the hospital's stroke unit for physiotherapy but was still seen
regularly by the critical care unit's outreach team.
Unbelievably, in just six months he was back working in the
hospital's operating theatres.
Paul said: "They reckoned I could have been on critical care for
a year and at least two years before I was OK - maybe never. But,
although I get tired, all I was left with is an itchy thumb, which
is not too bad!"
Paul praised the critical care team for the support they gave
him and his wife Belinda.
At the end of last year, a five-year study by the Intensive Care
National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) found that Southend's
unit experienced far fewer deaths than predicted, despite patients
being admitted with more severe conditions. During the five-year
period reviewed, a total of 2483 patients were admitted to the
unit, of whom 155 more survived than expected.
Paul said: "I feel fabulous. I swim a lot to get my lungs back
working and have taken up model building to loosen up my
Paul has already given a couple of talks on the patient's
perspective to critical care unit staff and now he and Belinda, who
dept a detailed diary of his time in hospital, have been asked by
the Guillain-Barre Syndrome Support group to write an uplifting
book about his rapid progress from being a quadriplegic to getting
back to work.
He said: "It is easy to get into a real spiral of depression. I
hope my experience will help others who are diagnosed."