A White Rock man is battling the onset of a rare, paralyzing condition in an Abbotsford ICU after a typical bout with the flu.
In late February, 30-year-old Matt Reisig “had a flu, just like the rest of his family,” said Cara Parks, an aunt of the family.
On March 1, the young father – who was born in Aldergrove and moved to White Rock with his wife and daughter just last month – woke up with symptoms that progressed from tingling in his legs to a complete collapse onto the floor.
Taken by ambulance to the Peace Arch Hospital ER, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).
“When Matt first fell ill, an ER doctor said it was going to be five days of treatment,” Parks said.
But on March 7, Reisig’s condition deteriorated even further and he had to be intubated in order to breathe.
Reisig has now lost all motor skills with the exception of slight head, shoulder and face movements including nodding, eye rolling and side-to-side head motions, which he uses to communicate with his wife Ashley.
She has stood by his side in hospital, with their one-year-old daughter Ayla.
“People really admire the love they share, their connection in this time,” Parks told Black Press Media.
As friends in Grade 5, the couple attended Parkside Elementary in Langley and reconnected after high school. They have been together for 10 years.
“Ashley made a communication board with letters to help Matt convey what he feels and needs,” Parks said.
Doctors have warned Ashley that Reisig’s prognosis is grave and, at the very least, will amount to a slow recovery. GBS is a neurological condition where adverse effects take two to four weeks to “peak” before plateauing – Reisig is currently at the two-week mark, Parks said.
The family hopes to raise awareness about GBS. According to Muscular Dystrophy Canada, it is a mysterious inflammatory disorder in which the immune system attacks the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cell axons instead of the virus the body is sick with.
There is no known cause for the condition.
“Before this, the family was doing so well. Matt was a very healthy, active guy. He was there for his newborn daughter when she had seizures and for his wife when she faced postpartum depression,” Parks said.
Reisig’s nerve damage now inhibits his muscles from being able to carry out their normal functions.
“We can’t tell how long the recovery is going to be,” Parks said. “Could be months or years.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to offset family expenses, as neither parent will be able to work for the foreseeable future while Matt takes slow steps towards recovery.
“Doctors keep having conversations with me to manage my expectations,” Ashley told Black Press Media, “but I’m reaching out in ways I never have because I don’t know what else to do.”
On Monday, she took Ayla to visit her dad at his request.
“I wondered if I should, but he needs to remember who he’s fighting this battle for and what he has to look forward to when he comes through it,” the mother posted to Facebook.
Reisig was transferred to the intensive-care unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital and is now undergoing plasmapheresis treatment at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.