Teen recovers from Guillain-Barré syndrome, excited to run in Dec. 12 Kent Christmas Rush
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
December 7, 2009 · 9:23 AM
Gage Sinclair was in a hospital bed and unable to walk three months ago.
So when Sinclair, 13, participates in the city of Kent's 27th annual Christmas Rush Fun Run and Walk Saturday, it will help mark an end to a painful and challenging period in his life, and that of his family.
"It's going to be incredible," said his mom Diane Sinclair, about getting to watch her oldest child compete in the 5-K run. "I can't wait to see him finish. It's a nice way to end all of this."
Doctors at the Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma told Sinclair, 13, in mid-September that he had Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system connects the limbs and organs to the central nervous system, run by the brain and spinal cord.
The first symptoms of the illness include weakness or tingling sensations in the legs that can then spread to the arms and upper body. The symptoms can increase in intensity until the muscles cannot be used and the patient is almost totally paralyzed, according to the National Institutes of Health Web site.
"I could not even stand I was so weak," Sinclair said Thursday at Kent View Elementary, a Christian school in Auburn where his mother works as an administrative assistant. "Everything below my neck was sensitive to even a breeze."
Sinclair, a seventh-grade student at Rainier Christian Middle School in Covington, felt more tired than usual after a soccer practice in early September. He started to get weaker and weaker over the next couple of weeks. He had the flu, but something else had hit him much worse than the flu.
"I would step on things and feel a pain up my leg," said Sinclair, of Enumclaw.
Diane Sinclair could tell things were not right with her son.
"It was getting worse and worse," she said. "He was not walking properly. We called our doctor and were told to take him to the emergency room."
Doctors ran tests for a couple of days before they determined that Sinclair had Guillain-Barré syndrome. Doctors ran a nerve conduction study, in which electricity is sent through the body to help determine the functioning of the peripheral nerves.
"That was horrible," Gabe Sinclair said of the pain from the test.
Doctors treated Sinclair with intravenous immunoglobulin to help his immune system attack the invading organism. There is no known cure for the syndrome, but nearly 70 percent of those struck with the disorder fully recover, according to the National Institutes of Health Web site.
After about eight weeks, Sinclair became a fully recovered patient.
"I woke up one morning and I was better," Sinclair said about the weekend before Thanksgiving. "My sensitivity and my strength was better. The doctor had said I could wake up one day and be totally better."
Most people reach the stage of greatest weakness within the first two weeks after symptoms appear. Ninety percent of patients are at their weakest by the third week of the illness. The recovery period may be as little as a few weeks or as long as a few years, according to NIH.
"It could have gone on longer," Diane Sinclair said. "Now he has the same chance of anyone else to get it again."
Sinclair, who used a walker for a while, missed six weeks of school. He had to quit the soccer team and couldn't turn out for basketball. He hopes to join the basketball team later in the season and turn out in the spring for track and baseball.
On Saturday, Sinclair will run with his father, Derek, as well as his sister, Lexi, 11, and brother Cole, 9. Gabe Sinclair ran his first 5K races last summer in Federal Way and at the Kent Cornucopia Days.
"I'm curious to see how I will do," Sinclair said. "I'm a little nervous, but I'm really excited. I haven't run (a race) for a while, so I will find out if I still have the endurance."
Because of his ordeal over the last few months, the teenager no longer takes everything in life for granted.
"It's a big relief," Sinclair said of getting through the illness. "I look at simple things differently, like walking, running and jumping. I am really thankful just to walk."
Christmas Rush run, walk is Saturday
Runners and walkers can sign up for the city of Kent's 27th annual Christmas Rush Fun Run and Walk online or even the morning of the race.
The 10-K run starts at 9:50 a.m. Saturday followed by a 5-K run or walk at 10 a.m.
Registration starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Riverbend Golf Course parking lot, 2019 W. Meeker St. Race participants can park at Russell Road Park, 24400 Russell Road.
Pre-register online at www.active.com (enter Kent, WA in search) or call the city at 253-856-5050.
The registration fee is $20 for the run or walk and $25 with a T-shirt.
More than 1,000 runners and walkers are expected to participate, said Mark Hendrickson, city cultural programs coordinator.
"We have over 1,000 entries and anywhere between 100 to 150 sign up the day of the race depending on the weather," Hendrickson said.
City officials changed the course this year because of the giant sandbags placed along the Green River Trail to combat flooding.
The run starts at the Riverbend Golf Course, goes down Meeker Street to Frager Road and heads north to about South 212th Street before returning along Frager Road to head back to the golf course.Contact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.