'I went to bed with a cold and woke up paralysed': Hull student Alistair Summers learns to walk again after rare syndrome shock
A HULL student has been paralysed after being struck down by a rare condition just three weeks after arriving in the city.
Alistair Summers, 19, woke up to discover he had lost the power in his legs. Taken to hospital by his friends, he had lost all movement from the neck down by the end of the day.
Now, Alistair is recovering at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham after being diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the nerves in the arms and legs become inflamed and stop working.
Alistair, who had been studying Spanish and business at the University of Hull, said: “It started out as a bad cold and then I was paralysed – it was a bit of a bad deal really.”
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His problems began when he went to bed, exhausted, after struggling to climb the stairs.
Alistair said: “I just thought I was a bit tired. “I went to bed and the next morning when I woke up, I collapsed on the floor – my legs weren’t working.
“My friends took me to hospital and the doctors diagnosed me almost straight away.
“They said I’d probably be in for two weeks, which I didn’t think was too bad.
“What I didn’t realise then was how serious the condition was and that I would be totally paralysed.”
The two weeks has now turned into three months.
At first, Alistair could not walk or talk and communicated mainly through facial expressions and making clicking noises to get attention.
After being taken ill in mid-October, he is now recovering at Castle Hill Hospital but does not know how long, or if, he will fully return to normal.
His rehabilitation means he has to start from scratch – and is using crutches to learn how to walk again.
He said: “It is like going back to being a baby again.
“When I lost all my movement, I was pretty worried, but more shocked.
“But then when I couldn’t speak and had trouble breathing I didn’t remember much from that time.
“I was an average student going out meeting everyone and then I was lying in bed in a hospital.
“It was scary. I was really worried about what would happen to me.
“I was thinking ‘Is this going to be a lasting affect?’
“I tried not to think about it, but it is hard not to when you are just lying in a bed.”
For a while, Alistair lost his speech, but he was later fitted with a contraption to help him talk.
He can now speak normally and use his arms, although his fingers are still not as strong as they were.
His parents Jacky and Bryan moved from their village in Lincolnshire to be by Alistair’s bedside when he was in Hull Royal and Castle Hill.
Jacky, 58, said: “He was completely surrounded by machines. But, as he started to recover, the machines slowly started to disappear one by one.
“As they went away, I started to think ‘I am going to get my son back’.”
Bryan, 79, says they have found the experience of seeing their son in such a state a very difficult one, but they are proud with how he has coped.
Bryan said: “I find it very emotional even now, thinking back to when he couldn’t even speak to us.
“It was so amazing to hear when he finally did speak again.
“They weaned him off the ventilators and machines and then we heard his voice properly for the first time.
“I still feel it now.
“But all the way through this, Alistair has smiled.
“I didn’t realise until the interview with the Mail that he had been scared – that was the first time he told us that.
“Jacky and I and the nurses were blown away by how he responded to everything and had a smile on his face throughout.
“It is incredible that all the way through he has never complained.”
Alistair has been cheered on with his recovery by visits from his university friends.
Since he has been moved to the rehabilitation ward at Castle Hill, he is nearer the student accommodation at The Lawns.
Jacky said: “Both the university and the hospital have been incredible to Alistair.
“And his friends have been very supportive.
“They have a very dark sense of humour about the whole thing and make him laugh.”
Alistair now hopes to hold a sponsored leg wax to raise money for the medical teams who have helped him.
Eventually, he will be moved to a ward in Nottingham, so he can recover closer to his parents’ home in Lincolnshire.
He will then re-start his university course when he is better.