Fabian P.

Fabian P.

Fabian Pena's life was full of friends, family, and activity. He worked full-time in construction with his uncle. After work, he would spend time with his 4-year-old daughter, Ximena. They would barbeque, go to the park, and play with Barbies. On Sundays, Fabian played soccer with his friends. "I would commute from Blythe to Lake Havasu for games and tournaments," Fabian said. After games, they would go to lunch and visit before his long drive home. In between it all, Fabian spent lots of time with his family. "There was always something to do."

December arrived, and Fabian was as active as ever preparing for Christmas and New Year's. Ximena's gifts were bought and wrapped, and Fabian was filled with excitement.

"I was looking forward to the holiday season," Fabian said.

"I lost control of my entire body"

But on Christmas Eve, Fabian recognized something wasn't right. "I began to notice weakness from my waist down and I was suddenly unable to walk." Things got even worse on Christmas day. "I lost control of my entire body." Each hour, Fabian's body got weaker and weaker. Before long, he couldn't speak or open his eyes.

"I was so scared, but I just thought I had a virus," Fabian reflected. "I thought I could go to the doctor's office and get medication and fluid, and I would feel better -- until I lost control of my entire body."

Fabian's family drove him to Mexico where he had an MRI. The physicians recommended he return to the US for treatment. His family drove him to Yuma, AZ and he was transferred to Dignity St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.

Fifteen days later, Fabian woke up. He couldn't move, swallow, or breathe on his own. Fabian had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

What is Guillain-Barre syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare neurological disorder where the body's immune system attacks its nervous system. Some cases are mild, with brief weakness being the only symptom. Others, like Fabian's, are more severe, leaving the patient paralyzed.

Inpatient rehabilitation plays a key role in a patient's recovery from Guillain-Barre syndrome. Physical, occupational, and speech therapies help the patient to rebuild their strength and regain their function and independence. Fabian's therapists and case manager recommended Vibra Rehabilitation Hospital of Rancho Mirage.

Fabian arrived at Vibra dependent on the staff for everything. "I could not walk, eat, raise my arms, or even open my eyes," Fabian noted. But he also arrived motivated to get better. "My motivation was to get back to my normal life."

The power of a support system

A strong support system helped Fabian during his recovery. "I have not been alone," Fabian said. "My family and friends have been so supportive and have prayed a lot for my recovery. They have been so supportive in my recovery, and been through my side through the entire process."

Fabian also found support in the staff at Vibra. "Francesca, my nurse, provided excellent care and compassion," he recalled. "She always asked me how I was doing and seemed to genuinely care about my needs and recovery. My therapy team, Matt (OT) and Jan (PT), worked me really hard and provided a lot of encouragement. I found them to be professional and without them, I wouldn't be walking today. Israel, my CNA, was always helpful and had a good attitude, no matter what he had to assist me with."

But Ximena may have been Fabian's biggest motivator.

"My daughter has been a huge source of inspiration," Fabian said. "I wanted to get better for my daughter, to be able to care for her. I still have her Christmas presents in the back seat of my car. I'm looking forward to finally having the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with her!"

Fabian took the motivation and inspiration and poured it into hard work. And that hard work paid off. "When I regained my speech and vision and was able to walk with a walker again, it was so motivating to continue this journey," Fabian shared. "I took fine motor skills for granted. I was so happy when I regained the ability to write my name again."

As Fabian looks forward to returning home, he plans to keep working hard. "Once I get home, I am going to continue working hard towards a complete recovery. I am going to join a gym to continue building my strength from the exercise plans my therapists gave to me."

And of course, Fabian can't wait to enjoy spending time with his family and his daughter.