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Me & Guillian Barre Syndrome: A Story of Love -Chapter 1

The cold crisp air brushes my face as I walk to the end of the driveway to fetch the daily mail, my lifeline to the outside world.


Turning east towards the one-story ranch house on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge, I can’t help but notice the vibrant fall colors; the once brilliant green leaves that provided much-needed shade during the hot summer, are now replaced with orange, red, and yellow. Colors reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting.


The Gorge winds pick up again, and I immediately notice the change as the hot, comfortable air is replaced by cold air. Although the cooler air is a reprieve from the hot summer days, this change also signifies the impending winter weather that grips this part of the world. If not properly prepared for the winter, it can lead to misery and sometimes death.


It seemed like it was yesterday when my husband Harold and I packed our two young children and moved to Stephenson Washington. As we made our trek east from Aberdeen in 1956, a historic ice storm gripped the Pacific Northwest never seen before, freezing parts of the Colombia River.


As I observed the barges and tug boats stuck in the glacial freeze, a panic set over me. What did we do?!


I glanced over and saw Harold with his boyhood grin, gripping the wheel and navigating the icy streets. “Isn’t this great, Fran!? It’s so beautiful here!”


Seeing Harold and his zest for life had a calming effect on me. My anxiety immediately was replaced with calmness and happiness. Harold always had this effect on me. He was my rock. My king. And I was his queen.


I knew the first day I met him, he was to be my husband. Harold and I met at a local dance In Aberdeen Washington in 1939. I was 16 and he was 17. He was tall, dark, and handsome and exuded confidence in the way he stood with his perfectly trimmed brown hair and wearing a stylish dark brown suit. His sparkling green eyes and his smile were warm and inviting.


We married in 1945 after Harold came home from the war and I finished nursing school. We were rarely ever apart. And when were, he was always on my mind.



Out of all the seasons, fall in the Columbia River Gorge was my favorite. I looked forward to Thanksgiving as I prepared my favorite meals for our growing family. With two sons, a daughter, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren, we were now a family of ten.


For about two weeks before Thanksgiving in 1975, I didn’t feel up to par. I wasn’t ill, in fact, I didn’t miss any work. I just felt headache and tired. I was a 48 years old and working as a registered nurse. I was one of the first nurses to visit patient's “in house”. I loved it! To be able to travel and help my patients at the same time was the perfect balance for me.


I was excited to have the family for Thanksgiving dinner. I cooked and baked all of my favorite holiday dishes that they loved. After dinner, I noticed my left hand becoming numb. It was hard to hold onto things.


As I sat down, it was a struggle to rise again. I was concerned but didn’t want to alarm the family. One part of me knew this was serious, the other part hated to acknowledge it. I think if I ignored it, it would go away.


After an amazing and long day with the family, Harold and I retired for the night. I was awakened at 4 am, with excruciating pain.  My legs felt heavy and my left hand was completely numb. I struggled out of bed and went to the bathroom and sat down and then couldn’t rise again. I called for Harold and he came immediately.

This is one of the things I loved about him, he was always there when I needed him. His boyish smile quickly turned serious as he saw me in my condition.


“Are you okay, Fran? What do you need? How can I help you?”  He took me into his arms and stood me up. “I am okay sweetheart, go back to bed to get some rest. You have a big day ahead of you”. 


I proceeded to walk into the living room to hide my debilitating condition from Harold as not to alarm him. Somehow, my ego as a nurse overrode the alarm signals my body was sending me.


As I walked into the living room my legs gave out and fell full length on my back hitting the tile floor so hard I saw stars. I missed the rung of a nearby bar stool which could have broken my neck and maybe severed my spine.


God was with me.


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This is so beautiful, Scott!! Can’t wait to read Chapter 2.

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