A young woman whose “bad hangover” turned out to be a rare condition which left her paralysed and unable to speak has bagged her dream job just five years on.
Brilliant Rachael Bailey, 25, has become a physiotherapist after being inspired by the people who cared for her during her “miraculous” recovery.
The student’s world turned upside down when a suspected hangover left her paralysed from the head down and unable to speak or breathe.
She had been on a night out during freshers in October 2014 when she began to feel a tingling sensation in her legs and her “nightmare” year began.
The following morning, the then 19-year-old, woke up and was unable to move her legs and rang 111 in a panicked state.
She was airlifted to hospital where she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder affecting just one or two in every 100,000 people.
It is caused when the immune system begins to attack parts of the nervous system leaving sufferers paralysed and with pain in their limbs.
Her condition declined rapidly and, after just three days, she was placed on a ventilator and eventually fell into a medically induced coma.
She lost the ability to speak, walk, and breathe – and communicated with doctors by pointing to letters on an alphabet board with her eyes.
Remarkably, after spending 59 days in critical care and 76 days in rehabilitation, she left hospital on her own two feet on March 11, 2015.
She hoped to return to Liverpool John Moores University where she was studying criminology and psychology in September that year.
But, after being inspired by the “magicians” who took care of her, she decided to switch to a degree in physiotherapy at the University of Nottingham.
In June this year, the stead-fast student earned a 1st class degree, tutored by one of the physios who cared for her, and is due to start her dream job at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital in two weeks.
Rachael, from Nottingham, said: “When I first woke up in hospital it was the worst thing I’d ever been through.
“I remember being angry and frustrated that my life had been snatched away from me.
“The first year was a nightmare, I hated every moment of it. Everything I had planned turned upside down and I felt lost.
“But it was also the best thing to ever happen to me – because I am who I am because of it.
“I’ve worked so hard, and it was so painful, but I’m so proud of myself.
“I’d never felt anger or pain like I did back then but it’s given me a new purpose in life.
“I can’t wait to start this new chapter of my life and help others the way I was helped.”
Rachael recalled how she’d met a quadriplegic man at Nottingham City Hospital’s neurological rehabilitation unit, who sat up and waved at her when she left in March 2015.
Rachael said: “When I got there there was a quadriplegic man and when I left he sat up and waved at me – it was an incredible moment.
“I didn’t know much about physios, I thought they just helped footballers and massaged people.
“But they were like heroes and magicians – I thought what they did was simply incredible and inspiring.”
When Rachael was rushed to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham in October 2014, she said she wasn’t worried and had booked a train home the same week.
She thought she’d worn a bad pair of shoes and was suffering with a heavy hangover.
But alarm bells began to ring after she suffered a rare side-effect from the treatment, which caused her brain to swell and triggered multiple seizures.
She was left in agonising pain as her nerves were sending false messages to her brain.
She said: “I didn’t think much of it.
“Even after the diagnosis I was calm because I thought I was young and physically fit and I’d be home by the weekend.
“But I ended up spending nearly half of the year in hospital with tubes in my mouth, being spoon-fed and moving in a wheelchair.
“I didn’t know what was happening at all, I woke up and all I remember was asking one of the nurses to take a picture of me because I wanted to know what I looked like.
“It was terrifying because I was paralysed from my head to my toe and I could only move some of my face.
“I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t scream.
“Only after the seizure did it really hit me how terrifying this all was – the fear and anxiety really set in.
“I was in so much pain but I couldn’t scream – it was horrifying.”
She was transferred to Nottingham City Hospital on November 11, on the day of her 20th birthday, and was cared for by a team of 50.
Speaking of her rehab, she said: “The rehab was very intense.
“For the first three weeks I hated everyone – I hated my situation and everyone around me.
“I cried every time I had to see a physiotherapist because it reminded me of everything.
“I really resented being there every day.
“I was in denial of how hard the recovery was going to be but the physios were amazing and helped me throughout.”
Doctors called her recovery “miraculous” due to how quickly her condition had deteriorated – as she was placed on a ventilator just three days after first showing symptoms.
Thanks to her hard work and that of the staff that took care of her, Rachael’s ability to move began to return after just three months.