- Associated Press - Monday, February 16, 2015

CONOVER, N.C. (AP) - Guillain-Barre syndrome is a nasty, nasty disease. For the first couple of days it’s no big deal. Your legs just feel a little tired. Then - just like that - you’re paralyzed. Guillain-Barre takes away your legs. Then, it goes after your arms. And if you’re especially unlucky, it makes its way into your chest and starts shutting down your ability to breathe.

Then, usually about six months later, the disease wanders off and you start getting back all the things it took. That’s where Paul Leonard finds himself these days. Guillain-Barre struck in August and didn’t start letting go until December. He’s still wheelchair-bound, but now he can move his arms. He’s finally strong enough to sleep in a bed and roll himself over.

And you’ve never seen a guy in better spirits about the whole thing.

Paul Leonard’s wife, Melissa Leonard, has to use a medical lift to transfer him from his wheelchair to the hospital bed in their living room. In mid-January, he was excited because he’d gotten back some control over the muscles in his core.

And he felt like dancing.

Melissa Leonard put on some tunes, Elvis’ “Hound Dog” and grabbed her phone. It’s about a minute long, and it shows Paul Leonard lying on his back suspended inches over his bed. He’s wiggling back forth and bobbing his head in time to the music - with a giant grin on his face. At the end of the video she asks him what he’s doing. He pauses, his eyes light up and he answers, “Dancin.’”

See the video at www.facebook.com/PrayersforPaulL/videos .

There’s no room for doom, gloom or pity at the Leonard house. But that’s not to say Paul Leonard’s road back to health has been easy. And he admits that, in the beginning, he felt a lot of anger.

“My recovery’s been a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” he said. “But I’m not sitting around here moping.”

After October story came out, Paul Leonard’s condition took a bad turn. He came down with a pair of urinary tract infections, kidney stones and E. Coli. His wife’s car got totaled in a hit-and-run and the stove caught on fire.

“He was hurting so bad. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t get out of bed,” his wife said. “We turned the corner in December.”

Every day brings newly-recovered abilities.

“I can show you one thing I can do - I can move my legs,” Paul Leonard said as he wiggled his knees back and forth like a butterfly’s wings. “And I can move my arms again, too.”

“The other day he was getting dressed and when I got back there he had put his shirt on by himself,” Paul Leonard said. “I was like, ‘Whoa - that’s awesome!’ We joke that it’s like watching a dog learn new tricks.”

He explained that he can tell when his nerves are recovering from the damage Guillian-Barre inflicted because the muscles in that area start to spasm. Doctors expect his extremities to be the last things he recovers. And now his feet are starting to tingle and he’s excited.

“And I can wobble side-to-side without falling over,” Paul Leonard said. “And my hips are coming back.”

He still doesn’t have much ability to use his fingers on his dominant right hand. His left is coming along a little faster.

“One day I saw how he was holding his hand and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh - you can give everybody the bird again!’” Paul Leonard said.

The Leonards give credit to a higher power for helping them to get by financially, even though Melissa Leonard lost her job and Paul Leonard can’t work.

“Everybody asks us how we pay our bills,” she said. “I just tell them that God pays our bills, because I’ve done the math and it doesn’t add up - but our bills are paid.”


Information from: The Hickory Daily Record, https://www.hickoryrecord.com

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