Miracle mum to head home
AMANDA LePeilbet is a medical curiosity and a one-in-one-billion survivor.
The Gympie mum was 38 -and-a-half weeks pregnant last December when she was struck down by a rare strain of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which affects one in 100,000 people and where the body's immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system.
The fit and healthy manager of Gympie Cooloola Tourism was on her way home from lunch with girlfriends in Maleny on December 1 when she noticed her left arm felt "funny, pins and needles, achy".
The next morning she had trouble walking, and rang the Gympie maternity unit, where she was booked to have her baby.
She was admitted and a doctor suggested it could be Guillain-Barre.
"It was quite a shock," says Amanda. As her condition deteriorated, Amanda was transferred to Nambour hospital.
There, doctors desperately tried to determine what to do for an expectant mother with Guillain-Barre.
There had been one other recorded case in Australia.
Within two days Amanda was almost completely paralysed.
"By December 3, I was a quadriplegic," she said this week.
On top of this, doctors discovered she had a rare variant of the disease that attacks the axons inside the nerves rather than the myelin sheath covering them.
This meant her recovery could take up to four times longer and that, combined with her impending labour, she was a one-in-one-billion case.
Putting her unborn baby first, Amanda refused a Caesarean section and her labour was induced on December 4.
Unable to move but in agony from the contractions and the Guillain-Barre, Amanda had three epidurals before giving birth naturally 13 hours later to a healthy baby girl, Cloe.
Her determination and recovery have astounded health workers.
After Cloe's arrival Amanda's breathing and swallowing deteriorated.
Doctors wanted to put her in a coma and ventilate her, a fate of 30% of sufferers, but because Amanda was breast feeding they held off.
As if that wasn't enough, 12 days after the birth Amanda developed high blood pressure, had a seizure, stopped breathing, was resuscitated, went temporarily blind and developed facial palsy.
She was then fed through a naso-gastric tube for a while.
"It was all a bit surreal, really," she says.
After four weeks in intensive care her condition plateaued and Amanda was transferred to Caloundra hospital rehabilitation, where she remains today.
Her paralysis is still so severe she can not hold her baby and has only just started to walk with the help of a rollator.
Nobody knows how long it will be before she fully recovers or if she will fully recover. It could take years.
She only weighs 48kg and has severe weakness and muscle wastage.
But the signs are good and her progress has so amazed her carers that they are studying Amanda and the possibility that the hormones triggered by breastfeeding have somehow accelerated her recovery.
Amanda wants to come home and doctors have agreed to release her in time for Mother's Day.
To help make that possible her friends and family will care for her 24-7 as her devoted partner Ered Fox must return to work.
But the Queenslander home that she, Ered and little Cloe will return to needs some serious modifications, and an old caravan her carers will sleep in needs to be fitted out.
Fundraising events such as a high tea and tapas in the park will be held in the Gympie region in the next month to raise money for those modifications.
The Gympie Times will publish details of these when they are finalised.
Driving the events will be councillor Jan Watt. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.