On a beautiful Saturday afternoon on September 10, life was rolling out in typical fashion as we were doing odd jobs around the house, testing and replacing smoke detectors at our home in Orleans, and texting with my brother Eddie Pash about some words in our Cree language.
What was to happen in the next few moments has changed our lives forever.
In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, all I could think of was, am I having a stroke? In the next 12 hours I would undergo two CT scans, an electrocardiogram, an MRI, blood work and a whole myriad of tests. After the results were in, emergency-room doctors could not say definitively that I had a stroke.
As I became weaker, it was four days later on September 14 that a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit said the words, Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS). What is that? I had never heard of that before.
I have been struck with a rare disease that has no known cause and no known cure. One in 100,000 people will get this and by the way, it’s not contagious. After two weeks in emergency and the ICU, I am now lying in a hospital bed with this rare illness that strikes with a vengeance.
Those around me quickly learned about this shocking disease. GBS takes about two weeks to detect. Unbeknownst to me, I was experiencing the initial symptoms when I was in Wemindji two weeks earlier. Feeling tired and chilled, I was sure I was catching a cold and excused myself from the COTA meeting to get some rest.
There was no easy way for the doctors to tell us about GBS. The body’s auto-immune system aggressively attacks the nervous system and will continue to damage nerves until the entire body is paralysed. Without immediate treatment, GBS would be fatal. My life as I knew it became a race against time.
The only way to confirm the diagnosis was a spinal tap that was performed within the hour. A neurologist inserted a very long needle into my back at the base of my spine and removed fluid for testing. Confirmation of GBS came four hours later.
As I think about the warnings from the neurologist and other medical personnel of the long-term effects and how debilitating this disease could be, I was determined to tell my story to the Crees. This is just another unusual illness that has struck a Cree that can be put into the record books for future reference.
I have no idea how long I will be hospitalized. I know that while there is no cure, people do recover from this disease. I cannot walk now but I am determined to walk again. It may take three months, it may take three years.
My personal passions for being at work at Pash Travel, playing golf, attending ball games, cheering on the Senators at their games, these are all memories of the past (for now). Simple tasks will be a challenge and I will quickly see all of the things we take for granted.
The emotional side of healing will try to take its toll as I suddenly find myself in the world of the disabled confined to a bed. I take solace in the fact that the Creator never gives us more than we can handle.
There are lessons to be learned and a positive side that comes from all of life’s experiences. Over time, I will learn what those lessons are and how I will use my experience to help others.
I am grateful for believing in the power of prayer and the support of family and friends.
I am grateful to my travel staff who continue to serve the Cree people in my absence. In honour of our Cree language, Pash Travel will soon be known as MAJIIDOW. That name seems appropriate now when you consider the circumstances I find myself in and what I have to do to get well.
At the beginning of September, I was sitting at the ball park in Val-d’Or, as I have done for so many years, enjoying the games, visiting and sharing stories with friends and relatives from up North.
As the saying goes, life can turn on a dime.
I know it will take a lot of physiotherapy and hard work but my determination is strong, I’ll be back!