27 January 2019

Blogger left paralysed with a nerve-crippling illness, after stroking a stray cat on holiday

A blogger is said to have harmlessly stroked a stray cat on holiday, before spending the next year paralysed with a nerve-crippling illness that doctors are convinced she caught from the fiendish feline.

A blogger is said to have harmlessly stroked a stray cat on holiday, before spending the next year paralysed with a nerve-crippling illness that doctors are convinced she caught from the fiendish feline.

Social media blogger, Gemma Birch (24) from Southport, UK, enjoyed an all-inclusive holiday to Albufeira, Portugal in July 2014, where she formed a close bond with a stray black cat who she lovingly named Catarina.

Gemma let the cat into the hotel apartment where she fed her milk and petted her.

On the final day of the week-long holiday Gemma started vomiting and became faint during the flight home.

“I was up vomiting through the night, then on the plane home I felt faint and couldn’t keep anything down,” said Gemma. 

“When we got to passport control in England, my stomach bloated, and I looked nine months pregnant despite having no food or liquid in me.”

As soon as she landed, she went straight to hospital because she knew something was seriously wrong.

The hospital ran tests and doctors found campylobacter, found in raw poultry, in Gemma’s stool.

This left Gemma baffled, since she had been pescatarian for a year at that point.

Doctors asked whether she’d come into contact with any animals, so she explained that she’d been stroking Catarina for the past few days.

Gemma spent a week in hospital on a drip for severe food poisoning after allegedly getting infected by the stray cat.

“I was getting weaker, but the doctors just said it’s because I had a serious reaction to the illness and plenty of bed rest would make me better.”

She was discharged after a week and doctors recommended bed rest for further recovery.

“When I was home, I kept falling over and losing my balance. I went to my GP on two occasions and they said the same, that I was just getting over the food poisoning.”

But Gemma fell out of bed one night and woke up unable to feel her legs.

“I just remember feeling like I was being dragged out of bed because I couldn’t feel anything.

“When I sat up, I realised I couldn’t feel the carpet beneath my legs. I started scratching them and felt nothing. One of the scratches made my leg bleed and I didn’t feel anything. I screamed for my dad.”

Her dad immediately took her back to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

Within hours, Gemma was paralysed from the hips down and spent three weeks in hospital.

“I couldn't do anything independently. I had to rely on nurses to take me to the loo and wash me. I lost control of my bowels and bladder and I couldn’t use my arms or hands because they were so weak.”

She was later sent to rehab, where she spent eight months learning how to walk and be independent again.

Throughout this period, Gemma was in her final year of university studying for a Psychology degree.

Tutors suggested she defer a year, but she persisted and proudly managed to graduate alongside her twin, Jessica.

It took 14 months for Gemma to recover, but when she’s unwell she feels the residual effects of the damage GBS caused her body.

“Once I got into mindfulness, I changed my perception and stopped being a victim, instead I was thankful for the experience, as I’ve learned so much.

“I don’t want people to wait until they have a negative life experience to appreciate life and live in the present. I hope my story inspires people to appreciate everything they have.”

Source: Magazine features










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