Within Two Weeks Texas Mother is Paralyzed, Unconscious, and on Life Support with Rare Deadly Disease
The morning of February 6, 2008, Barbra Sonnen-Hernandez collapsed after taking a shower.
“I couldn't move,” recalled Barbra. “I looked at my legs. I was trying to wake them up, you know, I was hitting them. Nothing. I couldn't even feel that.”
At the hospital, tests showed Barbra had Guillian-Barre Syndrome, or GBS. It’s a rare neurological disorder where the immune system attacks the nervous system.
Neurologist, Ken Ellington explained, “You can think of a nerve as sort of a copper wire with rubber insulation around it. And in this disease the body, it sort of attacks the insulation and strips it off and so the signal doesn't get through to the muscles very well. And that makes you appear weak.”
Barbra was told it could also result in paralysis.
“They were saying paralysis. The first thing I was asking is, ‘Am I going to walk again?’”
As with most cases of GBS, the doctors expected the symptoms to pass within a few months. Barbra and her husband, Carlos and their family began to pray.
“I had to communicate with God and just say, ‘Help me here how to approach this,’ said Carlos. ‘How to take things in stride because it was going to be a long trip, I could sense it.”
Carlos was right. Barbra’s condition started to decline rapidly. Within two weeks she was paralyzed, unconscious and on life support. Barbra was moved to Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas. The hospital staff worked around the clock to keep her alive. Carlos stayed at her bedside.
“The Lord gave me so much strength that I was so focused on what I needed to be doing.”
Doctors were very concerned. They had never seen anything like this before.
Dr. Ellington explained, “She had a very, very severe form of it that’s only been described in the medical literature six or seven times.”
Carlos went down the list of Barbra’s medical challenges.
“She had a full lung collapse, the other one was partially collapsed. She developed blot clots as well. Her blood pressure was so erratic, they would try to level it off, it would bottom out, and then it would go sky high.”
Meanwhile, Barbra was living her own nightmare. According to Dr. Ellington, she was in a “dream like state”, which means she could feel pain.
Barbra said, “This was severity like people were stabbing, you know, like I had stabs, burn like my skin was on fire.”
Still Carlos believed God would answer their prayers.
“There was so much developing against her in those few months, we started praying to God as a family to help her get through this and help us.”
Four months passed. Barbra says she couldn’t bear the pain any longer.
“I was tired now. I said. ‘if this is the way it is before you die, then Lord take me. I had my conversation with the Lord at that time. I said, ‘take care of my husband. Give him a good wife when I'm gone so he's not alone. Take care of my children.’”
“And as I was telling him this, I felt a peace, a beautiful, beautiful peace. And I heard a voice very clear. It was like a song, like somebody sang it, so beautiful, and it was a man's voice. And I believe it was the Lord and He told me, ‘it's not your time.’”
Barbra added, “And there was a click in my ears, and my hearing went on.”
Barbra said her sight didn’t return for another two to two and a half weeks. After such a long time, Barbra couldn’t wait to talk to her family and the hospital staff.
“Oh yes, (it was) a beautiful, beautiful day. Beautiful day.”
“She just got warmed up and took off and it was Barbra all back again,” smiled Carlos. “It was just a great, great gift we got back.”
Barbra started the long process of recovery. Considering the severity of her case doctors weren’t sure how well she’d do.
“That led to me trusting the Lord, you know, putting all my faith in Him,” said Barbra. “I started looking back at the whole memory of it and saying, ‘You know, if You got me through all of that, nothing is impossible with You, Lord. Nothing – nothing is impossible. You'll get me out of this too.’”
Barbra returned home determined to walk. After months of therapy and prayer – she did.
“God is there to hand you the many gifts that He has for you if you ask. You rely on Him, He’s there,” Carlos said smiling.
“Every morning when I wake up, of course, I'm thankful,” exclaimed Barbra. “I'm thankful to be alive that I'm here. There isn't a day that I am not thankful to the Lord.”
“I am truly thankful that I can get a fork in my hand and bring food to my mouth. The little things like that that I couldn't do, that we take so much for granted,” added Barbra. “I'm so grateful and so thankful to be alive.”