Published on June 06, 2019

Home Runs For Life: Austin Bird

Austin Bird poses with one of his Medic colleagues

The first warning sign Austin Bird experienced was tingling in his feet. By evening, he had difficulty climbing stairs. The next morning, his walk was weak and off balance.

On Mother’s Day, 2017 Austin went to Genesis Convenient Care for his symptoms. He was sent to the West Campus Emergency Department and then admitted to the Genesis Neuro Unit.

Austin’s mild concerns grew to extreme alarm as his paralysis progressed over the next several days.

He couldn’t walk to the bathroom, couldn’t grasp his phone and couldn’t eat on his own.

Austin was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. The weakness and tingling of the extremities he experienced are usually the first symptoms.

These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing the entire body. In its most severe form, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency. Most people with the condition must be hospitalized to receive treatment.

The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown. But it is often preceded by an infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or a stomach virus.

Paralysis

Austin Bird with his mother, AnnaAustin now believes the quick diagnosis at Genesis and early treatment with immunoglobulin therapy saved his life.

When the growing paralysis began affecting Austin’s ability to breathe, he was transferred to University of Iowa Hospitals. The irony is that Austin works as an EMT for Medic EMS. On this day, he became the patient in the ambulance being transported to Iowa City by his Medic EMS colleagues.

In Iowa City, doctors put him on a ventilator. He was given Last Rites.

When his comprehension finally lifted from the fog of heavy sedation, Austin was told he likely would never walk again and would not live again independently without nursing care.

He spent three months on a ventilator paralyzed from the neck down. At times, he admits he wanted to die.

It wasn’t until he became a patient of the Genesis Center for Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation that his prognosis and outlook improved.

“My care there was outstanding,” Austin recalls. “They motivated me to succeed when I didn’t want to do therapy. They got me back to the point where I had hope.”

Small Steps Forward

Austin Bird in the Genesis Rehab UnitIt was a slow recovery over the next three months. Just retraining his muscles to pull a tissue out the box became a breakthrough.

“Genesis is what made the difference between an average recovery and an exceptional recovery,” Austin says.

He has fully recovered except for some tingling in his toes. It’s a fair trade, he says, for being able to walk again.

Austin was a Genesis employee in the corporate communications and marketing department before he changed his career course and trained to become an EMT.

He still visits the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Genesis Medical Center, West Central Park, Davenport. He is paying his success as a patient forward. The therapists in the unit occasionally him to come talk to a patient going through a similar life-altering experience.

The Quad-Cities River Bandits are recognizing inspirational Genesis recovery stories like Austin’s this season with the Home Runs for Life promotion. Austin will be recognized on Friday, June 14 by the River Bandits.

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