A university student who had to battle for his life after falling critically ill is making a remarkable recovery.
Last October Alistair Summers woke up in his halls of residence at the University of Hull to discover he could not walk.
After crawling across his room to alert his friends, he was rushed to Hull Royal Infirmary where he was quickly diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the nerves in the arms and legs become inflamed and stop working.
The condition affects about 1,500 people in the UK every year. There is no cure. However, many treatments are available to help reduce the symptoms, treat complications, and speed up recovery.
Since that day Alistair, of Newbury Crescent, Bourne has undergone a battle to first survive the worst of the illness and then to recover.
Before falling ill Alistair was a normal fit teenager, who played football and enjoyed fencing, but by the end of the day Alistair had lost all movement from the neck down.
Within days of falling ill, he was in intensive care, paralysed and unable to talk.
He was only able to communicate through facial expressions, lip reading and making clicking noises. After four weeks in intensive care Alistair was moved to Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, on the edge of Hull, where he started his rehabilitation, having to learn to walk again using crutches.
Now, 12 months on from that fateful day, Alistair has re-enrolled at Hull University. He waved goodbye to his family at the weekend to start studying again for a degree in Spanish and business.
Alistair said: “Getting back to university was a milestone I really wanted to achieve and everything I have done has been working up to it. It is great to be back.”
The road to recovery has been a long one and is a journey, which still has some way to go. About 80 per cent of people with Guillian-Barre Syndrome make a full recovery, although it can take up to three years. It is very rare for a sufferer to have a second attack of the illness.
Alistair still suffers from numbness in his feet, making little things like wearing flip-flops impossible at the moment.
But he has made big leaps forward. One of his biggest victories has been being passed fit to drive a car once again.
He said: “It was a big moment when I found out I could drive again. I remember feeling just fantastic when I was told by my dad. That signalled to me I was getting back on track.”
Even while he was in hospital, Alistair took part in charity fundraising, getting his legs waxed to raise money for the medical teams who have helped him and since he returned home on February 15 has written articles for the Guillian-Barre Syndrom Support Group.
He and his family have also raised money the group, holding a quiz night at The Nags Head in Bourne.
While on his road to recovery, Alistair has volunteered with the Elsea Park Community Centre and St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice shop in North Street.
Alistair said: “When I had the illness it does hit your confidence, and I am still recovering. But the work at the trust and with St Barnabas lowered the barriers which I had put up to protect myself mentally.
“People have been really sympathetic and very normal and it has helped me realise I could do this. Really it is other people who have given me the confidence to go forward.”
Alistair’s illness has been hard for the whole family but his parents Jacky and Bryan and sisters Carolyn Summers and Laura Dewing have supported him throughout the highs and lows.
Jacky said: “Considering what he was like last year it is absolutely mind blowing to see him now. With these types of illnesses you feel you wish you could have a crystal ball because you don’t know what is going to happen with his recovery and you read things about people not recovering well but it was to his advantage that he was just 19 because he was still growing and is doing well.”
His mother expressed the joy at slowly seeing him walk first without the stick he relied on and then without the callipers he had to wear on his legs.
Jacky said: “Everyone is really pleased he has managed to get back to university.
“He practically threw us out of his room when we dropped him off. He was ready to do it for himself.”
Now Alistair, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, has just the worries of a normal student once again. Exams, essays and hangovers.