Emily Thompson has amazed doctors by recovering from a rare nerve disorder that left every part of her body paralysed – including her eyelids.
After being struck down with Guillain-Barré syndrome– a disease which causes the immune system to attack the nerves– doctors told her family to prepare for the worst possible outcome.
But after spending ten weeks in hospital, the 20-year-old is back from the brink and this week took her first steps.
‘I just wanted to cry when I started to move,’ said Miss Thompson.
‘It was so overwhelming because I thought I was never going to walk again.’
The former dancer went to see doctors in July when she started to get numb feeling in her hands and feet and was immediately admitted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle.
As the disease, which affects just one in 50,000 people, took hold of her body, she developed pneumonia and spent the next seven weeks on a ventilator in the hospital’s intensive care ward.
Doctors did not expect her to survive, and her parents Carolyn, 51, and 49-year-old David kept a vigil at her bedside. ‘There were ten days when I couldn’t remember anything. I didn’t know what was real or what was a dream,’ said Miss Thompson, who is studying to become a social worker at Sunderland University.
Her mother added: ‘She wasn’t showing any signs of improving. It became impossible to communicate with Emily and for a few days she couldn’t even move her eyes. It was just unbelievable to see her up on her feet again, even though she was supported by the physio. But it’s heartbreaking to see her being shown how to walk again.’
She added: ‘There is little known about the disease and I hope Emily’s story will raise awareness.’
Miss Thompson, who lives in Newton Hall, near Durham, was transferred to Walkergate Park rehabilitation centre, in Northumberland, this week, where she will continue her recovery.
Her 29-year-old sister Victoria, a school teacher, has written a diary to document her time in hospital.