Danny Wuerffel, former Heisman Trophy winner and record-breaking star of Florida's 1996 national championship team, has been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to the Gainesville Sun and several other Florida sources. Wuerffel, who currently works full-time with New Orleans-based Desire Street Ministries, was visiting a fellow minister in Alabama when he fell ill and was hospitalized, as he wrote in an email to associates on Tuesday:
A prayer request on my end. I caught a stomach bug last week on our Desire Ministry retreat in Colorado and my body got screwed up fighting the virus. I didn't recover well. I started losing feeling in my legs, and then while in Montgomery this week visiting our ministry partner, Bryan Kelly, I started losing feeling and strength in my hands and arms. After a series of crazy tests all day Friday (it was actually a blessing to have been in Montgomery), I was diagnosed with Guillian Barre Syndrome a pretty dangerous type of temporary but progressive paralysis. It was my immune system overreaction to the stomach bug that started attacking my nervous system. Fortunately, it was diagnosed early and I'm on a week-long treatment that should make everything be ok.
Crazy stuff. I'm doing well and very thankful to be getting good help. I'll be in Montgomery at least until next Tuesday. Please pray for a full and hopefully quick recovery.
I'm not that kind of doctor, but the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes Guillain-Barré syndrome as "a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system," resulting in weakness, tingling and varying degrees of paralysis. In severe cases, a patient may be totally paralyzed and require a respirator to breathe; physicians may also opt to perform a spinal tap. The syndrome can be "a devastating disorder," and sometimes life-threatening if not treated.
As Wuerffel's email indicates, however, treatment can dramatically lessen symptoms and accelerate recovery, though there is no known cure. (The NIND again: "No one yet knows why Guillain-Barré strikes some people and not others or what sets the disease in motion.") Recovery time may span from a few weeks to a few years; about 30 percent of GBS patients still have residual weakness after three years, and a small number (about 3 percent) may experience a relapse many years later.
In Wuerffel's case, it sounds like he's optimistic about landing on the better end of that spectrum; one spokesman for his ministry said he expects a full recovery, and another described him as "cutting up and joking," although still "pretty weak." From us, Godspeed on a fast and full revival for a great quarterback and humanitarian.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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