Sandee Rudy’s enthusiasm and zest for life is evident as she describes her and husband Scott’s shared passion for cycling. Last year alone, Sandee logged an impressive 3,000 miles on her bike. Her cycling experience has left her well acquainted with a rocky road or two, but nothing could have prepared her for the path she found herself on earlier this year.
February 9th started out like most days for Sandee, who completed a 6-mile bike ride before going to work as city treasurer of Hayden, Idaho. Sandee’s instincts told her something wasn’t right that day. “I had started to feel a tingling in my hands, feet, and tongue,” she says. “I knew something was wrong.”
By the next evening, Sandee was unable to walk without using a walker, and she fell trying to get out of bed the next day. After a trip to a hospital emergency room, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition where the immune system attacks the body’s nervous system.
In less than a week, Sandee lost her ability to swallow and was being fed through a feeding tube. She then lost her ability to breathe on her own, and was intubated. Sandee says, “I didn’t get better. Even more concerning, I got worse. At one point my eyes were paralyzed, and I couldn’t blink.”
Though initial efforts to reverse or alter the disease’s progression were unsuccessful, hope was restored with a procedure called plasmapheresis. After completing her first treatment, Sandee, was able to move her shoulders after weeks of complete paralysis.
After completing her plasmapheresis treatments, Sandee was admitted to Northern Idaho Advanced Care Hospital (NIACH), where the respiratory failure-certified care team helped her wean off the ventilator and breathe on her own.
“I was really lucky with the respiratory therapists assigned to me,” Sandee says. “Eric, Tammy, and Lindsey worked the hardest to get me off of the ventilator that I had been on for 71 days. They did a great job pushing me in a way that didn’t feel overwhelming. They gave me confidence in myself that I could do what I needed to do.”
After weaning off the ventilator, Sandee’s recovery progressed enough to allow her to participate in inpatient rehabilitation at Rehabilitation Hospital of the Northwest (RHN).
“There was a strong teamwork vibe with the whole crew at RHN,” Sandee says. “Everyone knew what was going on with me and were on the same page. There was a lot of communication. The teamwork stood out to me from the beginning.”
Sandee describes RHN’s therapists as, “just incredible. I got the best team of Jeff, Janelle, and Alyssa. I can’t say enough good things about them. Also, a shout out to Dr. Drake. He’s one of my favorite doctors throughout this entire process. It was a great experience at the hospital.”
The day before leaving RHN, Sandee, who just a few months prior couldn’t move, was able to walk short distances using a walker.