Like most people, I hadn't heard of GBS until someone I knew had it — my friend Jay. This is his story.
One evening in July 2014, Jay opened his back door and whistled for his dog, Riley. When he couldn't make a sound he though it was a bit strange, but he carried on with his evening and didn't think too much more about it.
Jay woke up the next day and sat at his dining table to eat his breakfast. He took in a mouthful of his soggy Weet-Bix and started chewing, he tried to swallow but couldn't. Drinking was also a challenge.
By that evening Jay was in a hospital bed in the neurology ward at Melbourne Hospital. His breathing was laboured and his legs were starting to weaken. Whatever had prevented him from whistling for Riley the night before was spreading through his body paralysing his muscles.
The following week Jay was diagnosed with GBS. At this point he was completely paralysed, and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit for close monitoring. Unable to breathe or eat by himself, he had a tube inserted through his trachea connected to a machine that breathed for him, and a feeding tube inserted into his nose.
Jay spent the next four months recovering in hospitals — until he had enough strength to breathe by himself. From hospital he was moved to to the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre to keep building strength and learn how to walk, talk, feed himself, and do many other daily tasks we take for granted.
While Jay was in rehabilitation, I was studying photography. My biggest assignment at the start of 2015 was a documentary book — I had ten weeks to shoot it and it had to follow an interesting story.
After visiting Jay a few times at his rehabilitation centre and seeing the progress he was making I asked if he would be open to having his journey documented. He agreed. We started shooting at the beginning of March 2015 and finished on the 27th of April — the day Jay moved back home.