Guillain-Barré Syndrome: Houstonian overcomes rare disorder, inspired to help others
Three weeks after recovering from a gastrointestinal bug, Mark Mozer was working in his office when suddenly he couldn’t feel his legs anymore. His brother, Kurt, took him to the emergency room, where he found out he had Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease.
“For a long time, I was worried that I was not going to walk, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from getting better,” Mozer said.
In Guillain-Barre syndrome, the body’s immune system attacks the network of healthy nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. Health researchers have not determined a cause for GBS. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, GBS can be triggered by gastrointestinal viral infection or following a surgery. Countries with outbreaks of Zika virus have reported an increase in GBS.
Unexplained sensations in the legs and arms are often the first symptoms of GBS. The pain often starts in the back or legs making it difficult for people with GBS to walk, according to the NINDS.
Mozer was immediately put into the intensive care unit and hospitalized for a total of 12 days. He underwent plasmapheresis, a treatment that filters out the antibodies that are attacking the nerves.
When he left the hospital, Mozer entered physical therapy for another 14 days because he was paralyzed from the waist down.
“Some people recover 100 percent to the point that you would never know they had GBS, and I have seen patients that never walk again depending on how serious it is,” said Nicolas Cornelius, assistant professor in the Neurology Department at Baylor University.
Anderson noted that GBS is rare, affecting only 300 to 500 people in Texas each year out of a population of 28.3 million.
Four to five months after Mozer started physical therapy, he started to walk again with a special device to help him, and it took him six months to drive again.
“I was still unable to feel my feet, so I could not drive until I began gaining sensation in my feet again,” Mozer said.
Mozer always wanted to go to nursing school, and his battle with GBS pushed for him to go back to school to become a nurse.
“I want to help people like I was helped in the hospital. I want to really make a difference,” Mozer said.
Mozer started a fitness page on Facebook as a way to inspire others to fight through GBS. Now, Mozer works with team beach body and does at-home fitness programs while going to nursing school.
“The Facebook page it had a lot to do with what I went through, but nursing and healthcare have always been a passion of mine – the persistence, drive and the will to be better than I was before,” Mozer said.