Stricken father takes first steps
Illness left dad paralysed, but he’s fighting back:
DAVID BRAHAM had been bursting with pride as he watched as his sixyear-old son play rugby at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium.
When he started to feel unwell, he simply put it down to a dodgy stomach.
But within a matter of days he went from being a fit, healthy dad to being in an induced coma.
Now, more than six months later, the Bridgend driving instructor has taken his first steps outside hospital as part of a mammoth journey to walk, talk and breathe on his own again.
David was left paralysed from the nose down when a tingling feeling started to spread through his body after watching his son.
As his condition began to deteriorate he was rushed to intensive care.
It was only later that medical staff discovered the fitness fanatic had been suffering from food poisoning campylobacter – which led to the rare autoimmune disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome.
David, 40, said the paralysis started in April this year when he started feeling pins and needles in his hands and feet.
At the time, the weightlifting enthusiast and his family just thought he had a 24-hour bug. But things went quickly went downhill and a few days later the dad-of-two found himself unable to get out of bed.
He said: “I had tingling pains in my leg and foot and hands and then I lost all feeling. I was paralysed from the nose down. It was food poisoning but they can’t tell me what it was, which of course is frustrating.” At his worst point, David, known as Dai to family and friends, found himself unable to breathe without a ventilator, and without a voice.
He said: “It’s the scariest feeling in the world. You are basically locked in your own body.
“It was horrible, I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I could blink to say yes or no or use a letter card. Then I would use letters on a board to spell out certain words.
“I came off the ventilator about four-and-a-half months later and got a voice speech valve to talk through. I had my voice back, but when you speak through the valve you sound robotic. I only got my voice back five months into the illness.”
An avid sportsman, Dai’s old routine would see him take on five or six gym sessions every week. Unable to move, over the first few months in hospital his weight dropped from 16 stones to just over nine stones as his muscles began to disappear.
David said: “They said on average you lose 77% of your muscle when you have [Guillain-Barre syndrome]. I don’t like what I see at the moment. I want to get back to the gym training. If I make a full recovery, and they seem to think I will, I want to take up cycling.” For Dai and his family the past seven months have been undeniably hard.
Despite everything, however, there have been two people in particular keeping him going – his four-year-old daughter Georgia and seven-yearold son Junior.
Dai said: “My daughter and son, my whole family, have been a rock for me. When I have really dark days I think of my chil- dren. It was very easy to give up, and when I wanted to give up, it was my children that saved me.”
On November 5, Junior celebrated his birthday. A few days previously, his family gathered to hold a party to celebrate the occasion with fireworks and hot dogs. It was a day Dai had been adamant from the start he would not miss, and his determination to be there saw him leave hospital grounds for the first time since April.
He said: “My aim was to get back home for that evening and I got to be there for the day. I had to come back to hospital afterwards, but now I’m having nights where I can stay at home with them.
“When they arrived they were in complete shock. Junior just came straight over and gave me a hug and grabbed on to me. My daughter was just shocked. “She just thinks every time I’m home I’m home for good.”
Bridgend driving instructor David Braham with his children Junior, seven, and Georgia, four