When Jessica Bohorquez quit showing up at the gym, that’s when she—and her friends—knew something serious was up. The lifelong fitness buff, a recent graduate of Caldwell University in New Jersey who’d recently returned home to Bethpage, had been feeling run down and out of sorts for several weeks last September. “My energy level was just low,” she said. “I had pain in my neck and just generally didn’t feel like myself.”
She chalked up her symptoms to fatigue and, like the athlete she’d always been, figured she’d push through the pain and snap back to her normal energetic self. But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Jessica woke one morning without enough oomph to even get out of bed. When she finally gathered the strength to take that small step, she found she was too weak to navigate the stairs. Her family doctor had a hunch what could be the culprit: Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)—a rare autoimmune disease in which the body’s own immune system attacks the peripheral nerve system, causing weakness, fatigue and potential paralysis.
Jessica’s doctor sent the young woman and her mom, Carol, to the emergency room at Plainview Hospital. “I thought I’d have a few tests and be OK,” Jessica said, but not long after arriving at the hospital, she could no longer walk.
Tests revealed that Jessica did have GBS. She was admitted to the hospital for further testing and intensive treatment, but things got worse before they got better. Her neck and arms were stiff, and she feared having to be put on a ventilator in order to breathe. “I honestly freaked out at the prospect of being intubated,” she said.