Truckie left paralysed by rare disease doctors dismissed as stroke

Incredible story of survival after truck driver was paralysed by rare disease that doctors thought was a stroke – here are the symptoms that told him something was wrong

  • Brendan O’Reilly, 31, was diagnosed with ADEM
  • Doctors first thought it was a stroke or cancer
  • His family has started a GoFundMe  

A truckie is lucky to be alive after he was struck down by a rare disease that doctors initially thought could have been a stroke or cancer. 

Brendan O’Reilly, 30, suffered problems with balance at work before his condition spiralled and he was sent to Ipswich Hospital, in Queensland.

His condition worsened prompting doctors to rush him to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Woolloongabba, in Brisbane.

Mr O’Reilly lost function of his hands and began to slur his words.   

Doctors were initially confused by his symptoms before finally diagnosing him with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis in February. 

Now he’s expected to make a full recovery slowly over the next two months as he regains movement, but doctors say he won’t be able to drive for the next two years. 

 Brendan O’Reilly, 30, was diagnosed with Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) after undergoing a brain biopsy in February

ADEM only affects one-in-250,000 people and now his brother, Dan O’Reilly, has set up a GoFundMe to raise money for what is expected to be a full recovery

The father-of-two is now learning to walk again after he spent weeks paralysed and months in intensive care.

ADEM is a very rare condition that affects one in 250,000 people. 

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, ADEM inflames the brain and spinal cord which damages the coating of nerve fibres, causing paralysis. 

Mr O’Reilly’s brother Dan has set up a GoFundMe to support Brendan’s children  while he continues to recover and regain his movement. 

After Mr O’Reilly was diagnosed with ADEM, his mother Marie, 64, said some doctors were unaware exactly what it was.

‘Brendan was admitted on January 31 and by the third and fourth day he was losing functionality of hands, couldn’t sit, and his words were starting to get jumbled up in sentences,’ Ms O’Reilly told Daily Mail Australia.

‘Doctors were sending results off to Princess Alexandra hospital and we felt scared as Brendan was scared, they were telling him it could be cancer, brain tumour or multiple sclerosis.

‘The second week in hospital he was deteriorating fast – looking straight through you, couldn’t turn his head and paralysed on his left side completely.

‘We got a diagnosis after three weeks that Brendan has ADEM.’ 

Mr O’Reilly was just days away from his 30th birthday when he first went to hospital, and now his family are trying to navigate the unpredictable path ahead.

‘Brendan had three to five days of plasma exchange which remarkably brought his speech back,’ Ms O’Reilly said.

‘Movement has come back down his left shoulder and arm and his leg has taken the longest to come back. 

‘We now have Brendan up standing and learning to walk again.

‘This disease came on so quickly out of nowhere and completely changed his life.’

Brendan is expected to be discharged from hospital on July 11 and his family are now trying to raise money for the prolonged treatment while also supporting his seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.

Brendan was rushed to hospital just days before his 30th birthday after struggling to stay balanced at work on January 31

Mr O’Reilly underwent a brain biospy at Princess Alexandria Hopsital in Ipswich, QLD, where doctors first though he might’ve had a stroke or developed cancer  

His brother Dan launched a fundraiser which he is hoping will reach $30,000 in donations to ease the increasing burden of medical bills.  

‘Brendan has been in hospital and unable to work to support his young children, while Brendan is slowly making progress with his physiotherapy and on the mend he will be in hospital for months to come,’ he wrote.

‘As a family we are asking if anyone has anything spare to donate to Brendan as he will not be able to return to work or drive a car for the foreseeable future when he is eventually allowed to leave hospital.’

So far $12,297 has been raised, and the local Ipswich rugby league club have also organised a raffle to help raise money.

While the cause of Mr O’Reilly’s condition isn’t clear, symptoms can come shortly after a viral or bacterial infection, although people have also been known to develop ADEM with no pre-existing infection.

Most people diagnosed with ADEM begin recovering immediately after treatment starts, with a full recovery typically happening within six months.

Most patients can recover with no permanent damage to their nerves or spinal cord.

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