Morgan in Hawaii before GBS struck. MDWfeatures / Morgan Williams

By Alyce Collins


THIS UNLUCKY woman declined the flu vaccine only to catch it a few DAYS LATER when it triggered GUILLAIN BARRÉ SYNDROME leaving her PARALYSED and fearing for her life – and after being airlifted to a SECOND hospital for treatment doctors admitted they’d NEVER treated it before.


Morgan Williams (23) from Texas, USA, was living in Kona, Hawaii, when she fell ill with the flu in March 2018. For two weeks, Morgan had a fever of 40 degrees Celsius, a rash, migraine and sharp shooting pains in her hips and legs.


On March 26, when she began feeling better, Morgan went to her doctor to make sure she was making a full recovery. She mentioned that she had severe pain in her hips and legs, indicating that there was something else wrong, but her doctor simply said this was because she had been lying on her back for two weeks, so she was just stiff.


Morgan in hospital after being diagnosed with GBS, but doctors said they’d never treated a case before. MDWfeatures / Morgan Williams

Morgan was approved to return to work but the next morning the weakness in her hips and legs became worse. She immediately Googled her symptoms and came across a condition called Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare condition which attacks the body’s tissue and nervous system, often triggered by the flu.


Morgan’s symptoms developed into complete paralysis below the hips and weakness was forming in her arms and face. She went to Kona Hospital, but doctors were stunned by her symptoms and couldn’t treat it, so she was airlifted to another hospital where doctors said they’d never seen a case of GBS.


Doctors did tests and a spinal tap to reach the GBS diagnosis, by which point her face began drooping, the level of paralysis was rising to above her naval, and it was developing in her hands and arms. Morgan was placed in ICU and given eight rounds of IVIG treatment.


As the paralysis took over her body, Morgan started to struggle breathing as her migraine continued and she had to be placed on oxygen. While lying in her hospital bed, Morgan felt helpless, fearing that she would lose her life as her body continued to fail.


Morgan’s mom reassuring her in hospital. MDWfeatures / Morgan Williams

“In late February 2018, my workplace was giving out the flu vaccine to all the staff who wanted it,” said Morgan.


“I declined the vaccine and within that week I got sick with the flu. I was sick for two weeks and I had a fever above 40 degrees for four days, a rash, migraine, and sharp shooting pain in my hips and down my legs.


“My sickness started on March 9 and lasted until March 26 when I went to my doctor to be checked that the flu was gone. I specified to my doctor that I had severe pain in my hips and legs and that I felt something else was wrong.


“He dismissed me and said that because I’d been sick and lying on my back for two weeks, it was just tightness. I knew he was wrong, but he cleared me for work and sent me on my way.


“As I was walking out of the doctor’s office, I felt weakness in my hips and had a gut feeling that something was very wrong. First, I thought it was an issue with my sciatic nerves.


Morgan with a walker. MDWfeatures / Morgan Williams

“I had a severe migraine and a loss of balance, but six hours after the weakness began, I couldn’t stand or walk on my own.


“The next morning, my symptoms had progressed, and I immediately Googled them and the only thing that matched perfectly was GBS. I thought I was being dramatic and as much as it scared me, I still believed that this was what was happening.


“When I woke up that morning on March 27, I was completely paralysed from the hips down, and was experiencing weakness in my arms and face.

“I went to Kona Hospital where I had to be transferred to The Queen’s Medical Centre in Oahu because Kona Hospital couldn’t provide the medical treatment I required. At the second hospital, the doctors seemed to know of GBS and explained the dangers of it, but they’d never seen anyone with GBS, which at the time was very frightening.


Morgan was forced to walk with a walking stick for many months until she developed her strength back. MDWfeatures / Morgan Williams

“They seemed nervous to diagnose me right away, so they performed a handful of tests and decided to perform a spinal tap before officially diagnosing me with GBS. It was slightly unsettling to see how nervous the doctors were and that they’d never seen a case of GBS before.


“The following day, half of my face was drooping, and the paralysis was climbing up to my belly button. The paralysis kept climbing a little higher than my belly button and I had paralysis in my hands and arms.


“Throughout my hospitalisation, I couldn’t hold or type on my phone, use my own cutlery or lift my hands above my ears. The migraine never left, only worsened, as well as the body pain and nerve sensitivity.


“The migraine became so bad that I was having trouble breathing on my own. I was rushed to the ICU where they put me on oxygen, increased my pain medication, and I was being prepped for a tracheotomy. Within the hour my breathing stabilised, and they never performed the tracheotomy.


“I was given eight treatments of IVIG and then I started to show signs of recovery. The night I was moved into the ICU, I stabilised and the following day the pain was under control. Three days after being placed in ICU, I could wiggle my toes.”


Over a year since developing GBS after catching the flu, Morgan has faced a long physical recovery as well as the mental recovery. Since her hospitalisation, Morgan has experienced PTSD, depression, chronic fatigue and night terrors.


Doctors in the hospital had never seen a case of GBS before. MDWfeatures / Morgan Williams

After fighting for her life and battling to recover her physical ability, Morgan shares her journey on Instagram to encourage others not to take their health for granted.


“I’m told by doctors that I will always have a chance of relapsing, I may also have permanent paralysis in my face and the fatigue can last for many years. My immune system has been compromised so it’s very weak,” said Morgan.


“Even if the paralysis does reverse completely, whenever I am tired there will always be some slight drooping of my mouth and eyes.


“I had never heard of GBS until the day I went to hospital. It can be caused by the flu jab, and the thought of anyone else going through this breaks my hearts. It’s also very frustrating because each case is different, so when people around me heard what happened, they felt the need to try and inform me about it.


“I believe that no one really knows everything unless they’ve experienced it themselves, especially because of how different each case is. I still believe that there needs to be much more awareness of GBS and what it does.


“I’ve learned first-hand that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. There’s no shame in seeking help, such as going to a therapist or simply vocalising internal conflicts. Don’t take your life or your body for granted – take care of yourself and love yourself.”


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