TULSA - 2NEWS Chief Meteorologist Dan Threlkeld is counting the days until he can return to what he loves doing most: forecasting Green Country's weather.
It has been approximately six weeks since the veteran meteorologist underwent emergency gallbladder surgery, then developed a debilitating neurological condition. There is great progress to report on Dan's road to recovery.
Two weeks ago, Dan was wrestling with a wheelchair and taking his first steps with help. Now he is walking on his own and even challenging himself with stairs. When 2NEWS dropped by to check on Dan's progress, Dan was quick to flash a "thumbs up".
"Feeling good," Dan Threlkeld said. "Every day I get a little better physically and mentally."
Initially, Dan was admitted to the hospital for emergency gallbladder surgery. However, his immune system went haywire, attacking the nerves in his hands and feet. Diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Dan suffered intense pain followed by numbness in his extremities.
"Guillain Barre' usually starts in the lower limbs; like in the leg," according to Jim B. Harjo, D.O., Family Medicine physician at SouthCrest Family & Maternity Care. "You come home from work and you're really tired. You just feel like your legs don't want to work. Those are usually the first signs. It starts in the lower limbs and moves up."
According to the National Institute of Health, "Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the patient is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases the disorder is life threatening - potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate - and is considered a medical emergency. Such a patient is often put on a respirator to assist with breathing and is watched closely for problems such as an abnormal heart beat, infections, blood clots, and high or low blood pressure. Most patients, however, recover from even the most severe cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, although some continue to have a certain degree of weakness."
The NIH warns Guillain-Barré syndrome can affect anybody at any age. However, it is rare, affecting only 1 in 100,000 people. The syndrome may occur in the days or weeks after a respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. At times, surgery or vaccinations will trigger an attack.
The doctors treating Dan Threlkeld are uncertain what brought it on in his case. Dan came down with a stomach virus the week before he underwent gallbladder surgery. In Dan's case, the illness moved fast. As a result, doctors placed Dan in the hospital intensive care unit for 11 days. At the same time, Bell's palsy struck, paralyzing one side of his face.
"The Bell's palsy is actually a virus that resides in the nerves that just lies dormant for whatever reason," Dr. Harjo added. "It could be stress, it could be someone was sick."
According to physicians at the Mayo Clinic, "Bell's palsy occurs when the nerve that controls facial muscles on one side of your face becomes swollen or inflamed. As a result of Bell's palsy, your face feels stiff. Half your face appears to droop, your smile is one-sided, and your eye resists closing. For most people, Bell's palsy symptoms improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in three to six months."
In Dan's case, the triple-whammy of surgery, Guillain-Barré and Bell's palsy has forced him to re-learn everything.
"Buttoning a shirt, combing hair, walking again, learning to speak and articulate," Dan said. ""A month ago I couldn't feel my hands, completely numb. My dexterity continues to increase."
A tough, daily regimen of physical, occupational and speech therapy is paying off. In fact, Dan is counting the hours until Tuesday - when he anticipates being released from the hospital.
"I just feel so much better and can't wait to get back to work," he added.
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