By Alexander Greensmith
THIS YOUNG woman says STRESS caused her to develop a condition that left her PARALYSED from the NECK DOWN – leaving her in a NURSING HOME for over THREE MONTHS.
Former duct iron pipe manufacturer, Courtney Runyon (35) originally from Dallas, USA, struggled to let go of a busy life of travelling and fitness after she began to lose feeling in her arms and legs.
Courtney continued her job in Las Vegas for six months whilst losing more feeling in her limbs, despite being on the road travelling through different states every week for work.
However, when doctors in Nevada kept testing her for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS) without a diagnosis, she decided to see a specialist five hours away in Arizona.
It was at The Mayo Clinic where Courtney received the news that she had chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).
“I was telling the Las Vegas doctors, ‘you don’t understand, every day I lift my arms up from my side, I can visibly see myself lifting my arm up less and less,” Courtney said.
“It was sort of a relief to be diagnosed with CIDP because at that point it was narrowed down to three neurological-related illnesses. ALS, with which you can die in two to ten years and Lyme disease where it’s so unpredictable and difficult to put into remission. CIDP was the least severe of the three.
“CIDP is the chronic form of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Your nerves inflame and your immune system attacks your peripheral nerves which are in your face, arms, legs, throat, internal organs, and skin.
“One if the more common causes I’ve heard from others with CIDP is the flu shot or a vaccination, but for me it was triggered by two stressful weeks in December 2016 and I started to show symptoms two weeks later in February of 2017.
“One of the first things that I really had problems with was having a shower. I couldn’t lift my hands all the way up to my head so I would bend over to wash my hair but when I’d get out, the towel was way too heavy so my ex-boyfriend would have to dry me off.
“It got to the point where in August 2017, I was going to a wedding in Mexico and I was getting coffee but I couldn’t open my wallet and I couldn’t get my credit card out my friend had to help me and I remember just breaking down crying in the airport.
“At the wedding dinner I can just remember I couldn’t get the fork up to my mouth. So I would get it on the fork and rest my hand on the table and then I would bend my head down and bite off the fork on the table being held by the weight of my hand.
“Two weeks later I went on disability because I couldn’t speak. You had to be right next to me because it sounded like a scratchy whisper.
“I couldn’t talk to text, and when I was typing on the computer, I would throw my arms up onto the computer because I couldn’t lift them to put them up there and then I was trying to type but then I couldn’t move my wrists and my hands so then I started using my nose.
“I still thought it was just one of those things I thought would go away and get better, but I would go through all my testing and go on an autoimmune protocol diet for sixty days.
“I was thinking I was doing everything I needed to do. You just don’t think that you are going to become one of those people that this happens to.
“But it came to the point where I was mentally adjusting and realising that I am one of those people and I can’t work.”
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy affects one to eight of every 100,000 people.
The immune system is thought to cause damage to the myelin sheath of the peripheral nervous system, often affecting the arms and legs first.
While Courtney thought she had hit rock bottom, the worst was yet to come.
“I couldn’t close my throat all the way so when I drank liquids, I choked on them. They would just leak in my windpipes,” she said.
“What sucked more was I couldn’t flex my stomach to cough it out so I would just be breathing the liquids without being able to cough them out and I couldn’t sneeze either. It was not my best look.
“I had lost all my muscle, so the skin between the bone and the bed felt like sticking your finger in a car door.
“The day after Thanksgiving of 2017, I had to move back to Texas. The nursing home discharged me because I was getting worse and insurance wouldn’t let me stay there anymore.”
Then, after staying in two hospitals and three nursing homes for a total of 108 days, Courtney moved back in with parents Renee and Bob in time for Christmas.
Courtney was discharged 20th December, 2017, and incredibly felt some movement in her nerves again only three days later – a date made extra special as the 23rd was her Dad’s birthday.
“I went back home and that felt like defeat – to the point I was dependent, but I still felt independent. I felt like I’d failed; I’m having to go to live with my parents in full-time care,” she said.
“But once I got there that was exactly where I should’ve been for sure – my family is amazing they were so supportive, loving and relaxing, I should’ve gone there sooner, it was all so wonderful.
“I love the phrase, ‘you can’t heal in the same environment that made you sick’. I had to leave Las Vegas – it was crazy there. I quit my job. I loved my ex-boyfriend, but he wasn’t helping at the time.
“If there are things that are stressing you out, you’re not going to get well in the way you want to until you get rid of them.
“My mother told me her early thirties were her favourite and here I was paralysed from the neck down in my early thirties.
“When something happens to someone, it is not necessarily the tragedy that makes it sad. It’s how that person’s life was ruined and how the person responds to it that is sad. So, I thought how can I love these years of my life? Instead of going to physical therapy twice a week how about I go to a yoga and physical therapy retreat by the beach?
“Sometimes when I was in the hospital when I got uncomfortable like hair in my face that I couldn’t move, I would close my eyes and picture myself on a beach in a red dress.
“So, my friends threw me a surprise party after hospital and got me that red dress I always pictured so I could do that.
“I was just really trying to put focus on what I could do now that I couldn’t before. Which is why I filmed myself in the hospital in a wheelchair wearing fun costumes or why I went travelling even though I had to ask strangers to tie up my hair.”
Despite being unable to buckle a seatbelt or put on shoes and struggling to carry a backpack – Courtney decided to go travelling in early 2019.
Now from quadriplegic to hiking over 500 miles across the Camino de Santiago in Spain, Courtney is currently in-between travels as her body continues to recover.
The meditation student is also starting to organise women’s retreats and motivational speaking gigs to promote her method of alternative autoimmune healing.
You can follow Courtney’s hikes of healing on her Instagram: @theunicort.