A truck driver is lucky to be alive after being stricken with an incredibly rare disease that doctors initially thought could be stroke or cancer.
Brendan O’Reilly, 30, was having problems with his balance at work before his condition worsened and he was sent to Ipswich Hospital in Queensland.
His condition worsened, prompting doctors to rush him to Princess Alexandra Hospital in Woolloongabba, Brisbane.
Mr. O’Reilly lost the function of his hands and began to hush his words with the fear of his family that he would not make it.
Doctors were confused by his symptoms before finally diagnosing him with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis in February.
Now he is expected to slowly make a full recovery over the next two months as he is able to move again, but doctors say he will not be able to drive for the next two years.
Brendan O’Reilly, 30, was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) after having a brain biopsy in February
ADEM affects only one in 250,000 people and now his brother, Dan O’Reilly, has set up a GoFundMe to raise money for what is expected to be a full recovery
The father-of-two is now learning to walk again after weeks of paralysis and months in intensive care.
ADEM is an incredibly rare condition that affects one in 250,000 people.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, ADEM inflames the brain and spinal cord, which damages the coating of nerve fibers and causes paralysis.
Mr O’Reilly’s brother Dan has one GoFundMe to support Brendan’s children as he continues to recover and regain his movement.
After Mr O’Reilly was diagnosed with ADEM, his mother Marie, 64, said some doctors weren’t quite sure what it was.
“Brendan was admitted on 31 January and on the third and fourth days he lost the functionality of his hands, was unable to sit and his words started jumbled up in sentences,” Ms O’Reilly told Daily Mail Australia.
“Doctors sent the results to Princess Alexandra Hospital and we were scared like Brendan was scared, they told him it could be cancer, brain tumor or multiple sclerosis.
‘The second week in the hospital, things deteriorated rapidly – he looked right through you, couldn’t turn his head and became completely paralyzed on his left side.
“After three weeks we were diagnosed that Brendan has ADEM.”
Mr O’Reilly was just days away from his 30th birthday when he first entered the hospital, and now his family is trying to navigate the unpredictable path ahead.
“Brendan had three to five days of plasma exchange, which remarkably brought back his speech,” said Ms O’Reilly.
“Motion has returned down his left shoulder and arm and his leg has taken the longest to come back.
“Brendan now stands up and learns to walk again.
“This disease came out of nowhere so quickly and completely changed his life.”
Brendan is expected to be released from hospital on July 11 and his family is now trying to raise money for the long-term treatment, while also supporting his seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.
Brendan was rushed to hospital just days before his 30th birthday after struggling to balance at work on January 31
Mr O’Reilly underwent a brain biopsy at the Princess Alexandria Hospital in Ipswich, QLD, where doctors first thought he may have had a stroke or developed cancer
His brother Dan launched a fundraiser that he hopes will raise $30,000 in donations to ease the mounting burden of medical bills.
“Brendan has been in hospital and unable to work to support his young children, while Brendan is making slow progress with his physical therapy and on the mend he will be in hospital for months to come,” he wrote.
“As a family we are asking if anyone has anything left to donate to Brendan as he will not be able to work or drive a car for the foreseeable future once he is finally allowed to leave the hospital.”
$12,297 has been raised so far and the local Ipswich Rugby League club has also run a raffle to raise funds.
While the cause of Mr. O’Reilly’s condition is not clear, symptoms can appear shortly after a viral or bacterial infection, although people have also been known to develop ADEM without pre-existing infection.
Most people diagnosed with ADEM begin to recover immediately after starting treatment, with a full recovery generally occurring within six months.
Most patients can recover without permanent damage to their nerves or spinal cord.