Dad 'basically paralyzed from the shoulders down within two days' by illness

Each year there are fewer than 6,000 cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome in the United States. But for those affected by the disorder, life can come to a screeching halt after it leaves them unable to move. This month, a St. Paul man has been hit hard by the rare illness.

His wife, Bethany Johnson, knew something was wrong with her husband Andy, when the 40-year-old was unable to get out of bed on August 6.

"He became basically paralyzed from the shoulders down within two days," Bethany told FOX 9 on Monday. 

Andy hadn’t been feeling like himself for weeks after returning from a work trip in Uganda, where he contracted the rotavirus. Slowly but surely the 40 year old lost control of his body, and at first wondered if the rotavirus was to blame, "We didn’t know if he was going to be paralyzed for good," Bethany added.

Now, Andy’s been hospitalized at Abbot Northwestern for three weeks, but he finally has answers. Doctors say Guillain-Barré Syndrome is to blame for his deteriorating health. In his case, the rare disorder was likely triggered by the common flu after he returned from overseas. 

Speaking to us from his hospital bed on Monday, Andy explained how his immune system was attacking his nervous system, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down. "I don’t really have any control over my legs right now, they still don’t move," Andy said. "You’re just thinking like will I hold my children again? Will I be able to stand again?"

Andy’s condition is improving, and gradually the father of two has regained some control of his hands and abdomen. He also has a new goal in sight from doctors, "The doctor there was like you have about a 50% chance of walking within a year," Bethany explained.

Until then Andy’s days are full of in-patient physical therapy. The hope is that he will be ready to leave in-patient care by Sept. 15. The sudden change in lifestyle has served as a reminder to the Johnsons of how precious life is.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help with Andy's recovery.