COCKEYSVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — A Cockeysville man’s life took a terrifying turn when he was suddenly diagnosed with a rare auto-immune condition that left him completely paralyzed.
Sixty-three-year-old Mark Van Natta said everything changed for him when he met the staff at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital who helped him get back on his feet. Van Natta reunited the same people who saved him on Thursday.
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“When you’re completely paralyzed and you don’t know whether that’s what you’re going to be for the rest of your life or not, it’s very scary,” said Van Natta.
It all started in January after he came home from a jog. “That night, I felt like a little tingling in my fingertips,” said Van Natta. It was a moment that would change his life. “Then the next morning, I started walking into the walls… I thought I had a stroke.”
Within 36 hours, he was completely paralyzed and diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder that attacks the body’s nervous system called Guillain-Barre Syndrome or GBS.
“Typically you get ascending paralysis with Guillain-Barre, meaning you lose the ability to control your muscles and your strength,” said Dr. Ashley Tinney with Medstar Good Samaritan Hospital. “Mark’s case was quite severe in the sense he had pretty profound weakness.”
“It just kept getting worse and worse and worse and worse and so fast,” said Van Natta.
According to the CDC, GBS affects only about one in 100,000 people. An estimated 3,000-6,000 people develop GBS each year in the United States.
“If it’s left untreated, it can lead to death,” said Dr. Tinney.
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Dr. Tinney said they don’t know what exactly caused Van Natta to develop symptoms but believe it may have been due to his recent surgery.
Van Natta described the intense and extensive rehabilitation process at Medstar Good Samaritan Hospital.
“So, you’re at a point where you can’t use your arms or legs and you have to re-learn everything, and walking is really hard,” said Van Natta. “I just wanted to get better. It was just incredibly hard. It was painful, it was tiring, it was scary.”
“We have a lot of really awesome equipment here that can help us. There’s something called the Zero-G that Mark kind of learned to walk in, it’s this harness that’s a track that goes around the whole gym and it supports your whole weight when you can’t support your own,” said Dr. Tinney
Van Natta has now graduated from outpatient therapy and is doing his own exercises at home now.
Nearly seven months later, thanks to the rehabilitation team at Medstar Good Samaritan and his wife, Lynn, by his side every move, Van Natta has made almost a full recovery.
“It feels amazing to see Mark do so well,” said Dr. Tinney.
From not being able to lift a finger months ago, Van Natta is now walking on his own again, engaging in physical activities and he recently completed a 5K marathon. He said he looks forward to his road to recovery one step at a time.
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“I want to be 100-percent, I don’t want to be 95-percent,” said Van Natta. “and you don’t know if it’s all going to come back, but that’s at least a path to come back, so I want to go down that path.”