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Resilience and Rediscovery: A Journey Through Miller-Fisher Syndrome

Freddy (at the back) with his family

I am Freddy, a husband, father, son, brother and friend. My day revolves around making people and organizations better while my night revolves around supporting my family and friends. During free time, I read, cycle and play football. I am also a huge cinema fan as it brings to me stories, places and emotions which I may never have a chance to experience.

In early December 2023, returning from Hong Kong, I caught a cough, much like any ordinary individual. Days later, while on a family trip to Taiwan, I started to feel lethargic. It evolved into blurred vision, pervasive weakness and an unsettling night that gave rise to double vision, slurred speech and paralysis on my left side of my body.

I sought help alone in a Taiwan public hospital. They thought it was stroke, so I did a battery of tests - ECG, MRI, X-Ray, bloodwork, reflex shocks, etc. After a day, they found no blood clot in my brain and gave me aspirin and other medicine to reduce stroke possibilities. After a few days, I was still not better and thankfully, a neurologist came along and proposed the possibility of Miller-Fisher Syndrome (MFS), a rare form of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). It was tough to know of this diagnosis but at least we knew what it was.

Driven by the urgency of my deteriorating state, I boarded a flight back to Singapore with the help of my wife. I checked into Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and was immediately given attention. The doctor there recognized my condition as MFS but did more tests to ascertain. As my condition was worsening, they put me on intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and my face literally ‘sunk’ even while being on IVIG.

Hospitalized at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH)

IVIG was administered over five gruelling days, each session lasting 10-12 hours. IVIG is akin to transfusion where they push in clean blood plasma. Those were difficult times as I could not eat properly, sleep properly and at times, worried that I could not breathe properly. And up till this day, I can remember each nurse that went through that procedure with me from 4pm to 4am.  Amidst the hardship, I found a new me. One who better understood the importance of the ability to see, breathe, eat, taste, move and rest. I also had an opportunity to ask myself if there were things I would have changed if life was shortened. If anything, the illness gave me clarity. I also recollected my times in NS - that people lose limbs in wars and still have to figure out how to live on - the least I could do was the same.

After a week, just before Christmas, the doctors allowed me to go home. I felt better and my condition improved. My speech was no longer nasal, I regained the ability to walk, and the paralysis that once gripped my body had subsided. The sole lingering issue I have is diplopia (double vision) and I visit the hospital for regular checkups. Although it affects my lifestyle, my physical condition is significantly better than it was before. My family, especially my wife, were instrumental to my recovery. A special acknowledgment goes to the dedicated staff at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) – it was not just the medicine, but the HOPE you instilled that facilitated my recovery. To friends who, though physically absent, were present in spirit through prayers and well-wishes, I am sincerely grateful.

I think the illness slowed me down and made me realise that although I am prepared for eventuality, there are still things I need to do to live a wholesome and meaningful life. I needed to do more for others – much more. I also found comfort in religion. Previously, I never really accepted religion, but I now know why it is so important to so many people in life. I am grateful for everything in my life, especially the ability to see my loved ones. I also never knew how good hot Milo could taste and feel until I finally regained the ability to drink it independently.

Every day is a gift. When any part of our body fails us, we can and will have to learn to adapt. Strive to be the best version of yourself, because both you and those alongside you deserve nothing but the best.

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