A DAD was left paralysed from the neck down after eating a cheese sandwich on holiday.
Malcolm Brown, 71, and his wife jetted off to Turkey for some sun in September last year.
They had enjoyed cheese sandwiches for lunch with some friends, when he was then struck down with a bout of food poisoning.
He became seriously ill after returning home to Scotland – with his vision blurring and hands and arms going numb, before being unable to move at all.
The dad was rushed to hospital in Edinburgh where he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease.
Malcom and his wife, Janis, think the original cause of his illness was some cheese bought from a local supermarket.
Janis didn’t eat any of it, but both Malcolm and a pal became unwell after snacking on it at their self-catering accomodation.
When they got back home from holiday Malcolm, who had been ill in bed for a week while away, started to feel “funny” with tingling fingers and legs.
The keen golfer said: “I got out of the car and fell on my back in the driveway and I couldn’t get up.
“Janis managed to turn me over and I crawled on my stomach. Then I couldn’t put clothes on as I had no grip and Janis had to dress me.
“I couldn’t hold a spoon to my mouth or the kettle vertically, and that’s when I thought it was something more than dehydration.
“I was deteriorating quickly and it was frightening not knowing what was wrong. I never thought something could do this to me.
“The hardest part has been accepting help from the hospital staff and Janis. I don’t want to be a burden on Janis.
“I have thought, if I had just picked up a different packet of cheese I wouldn’t be here… but you have to accept the hand you have been dealt.”
Janis, 69, has told how shocking it was to see him paralysed, and of the family’s heartache at not being allowed to visit him for five months over Christmas due to Covid restrictions.
She now wants to make people more aware of Guillain-Barre, and how tough it has been for Malcolm to recover.
Doctors still don’t know exactly how much damage has been done to his nerves, as the condition means his immune system attacked his own nervous system.
Tracing it back to the cheese sandwich:
Janis told the Sun Online: “We think it was the cheese as Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) can be caused by Campylobacter (food poisoning) and as we were on holiday with friends it was quite easy to work out what could have caused it.
“Malcolm and my friend had cheese sandwiches for lunch most days and the first week both were ok.
“The second week we had bought a different cheese which Malcolm had that day and the next day he was ill.
“My friend had that cheese the day Malcolm took ill as we thought at the time he had just caught a bug. The next day she fell ill and all the second week they had sickness and diarrhoea.
“The symptoms of GBS only started to occur when we got home (luckily).
“They started on the Sunday we got home when he got out of bed his knees were sore and his legs felt a bit strange.
“We thought he was dehydrated due to the food poisoning but each day he got worse and worse until he could hardly do anything himself.
“He was admitted to hospital on the Friday were he was examined by a young doctor who immediately diagnosed GBS.”
Guillain-Barre syndrome is often triggered after an infection – such as food poisoning – which then sees the immune system mistakenly attack the nerves.
Nerves repair themselves in between 12 to 18 months, and grow one millimetre a day.
Malcolm is gradually improving ten months on, but it is a slow road to recovery – with the dad now able to stand and sit in a wheelchair, and the family hopes he will be home next month.
He said: “I still can’t move my wrists, so my hands flop about on the end of my arms.
“I didn’t think it would take so long to heal but I am a positive person and I have not felt depressed or any self-pity.
“I’m accepting I can’t do anything while I’m in hospital, and with a good attitude I know I will get better.”
Janis has been taking on fundraising challenges, to raise money for Gain, the Guillain-Barre syndrome charity.
She has been running the equivalent distance between Lands End to John O’Groats, 874 miles, and has half a mile left but plans to walk it with Malcolm when he is able to.
The mum has also signed up to do another long distance challenge – the reverse journey, to raise a total of £1,748.