For Olivia Satala, love didn’t just change her life. It saved it.
As Fox 17 reports, in December of last year, the 22-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was a healthy college student studying for exams. That’s when she suddenly began getting strange symptoms.
“I was working, going to school, and I was finishing finals and noticed tingling in my fingertips. I assumed it was just from all the writing I was doing taking notes and studying,” Satala said.
From that first tingling sensation, things rapidly got worse.
“I was waking up with complete numbness of my feet, and from there, I had pounding headaches,” she told WOOD News. “Everything just started going down.”
Satala went to the doctor, but they couldn’t seem to address the increasing pain she was going through. She told Fox 17 that doctors thought at first it was a migraine, but “the next day I would be on the phone with my parents crying and saying, ‘I wanna die, I don’t wanna live through this, I’m in so much pain!'”
Finally, after five visits to the doctor, Satala was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the severity of Guillain-Barré syndrome can vary from mild cases of weakness to severe paralysis where the victim cannot breathe independently. The cause of Guillain-Barré is unknown, and it can strike anyone at any age, though it is more frequent in adults and older people.
Early symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome include unexplained sensations like tingling in the hands and feet that grow into muscle weakness. Other symptoms include severe pain, coordination issues, abnormal heart rate, digestion issues, difficulty swallowing, speaking or eating, vision problems, and the feeling of “pins and needles” in the hands or feet.
Symptoms can intensify over days and weeks. When very severe, the person may be fully paralyzed, and the disorder can become life-threatening.
The majority of those with Guillain-Barré syndrome eventually have a full recovery. However, the recovery process can be slow and may take years.
After Satala was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, her condition continued to deteriorate. On New Year’s Eve, she had a seizure and went into respiratory failure. As she told WOOD:
“I pretty much blacked out and woke up New Year’s Day in the ICU with a ventilator. I had been intubated. I didn’t know what happened. … I was essentially paralyzed from my lower eyelids down.”
Satala survived and was sent to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to work on her recovery. But her rehabilitation was going badly. That’s when her long-term boyfriend, Devan Jaime, decided to give her something more to work for.
Jaime had been by Satala’s side through her entire illness. As he explained to Fox 17:
“It’s not like I wanted to be home because it’s not home without her there, so I always just wanted to be with her.”
It had been a difficult day in Satala’s rehabilitation, and she was starting to get discouraged.
“She didn’t quite understand why I was doing what I was doing, so I decided to show her,” Jaime told Fox 17.
So he asked her to marry him.
“I just wanted to prove that I was going to be by her side and I was going to be there fighting with her the whole time,” he told WOOD.
Satala said that she’d just had “a pretty intense, emotional breakdown, like hitting a low point,” when Jaime proposed. But the proposal had an immediate effect:
“I didn’t want to do anything anymore, I didn’t think I was getting better and then within five minutes I was like, ‘Well let’s get started!'”
From that moment, Satala began to improve dramatically. In a little more than a month, she was able to leave the rehabilitation hospital. She says her goal is to be able to walk down the aisle at her wedding in October 2020.
Satala’s doctor told WOOD that he noticed the change in his patient. He added that a patient’s state of mind can make a real difference: “[With] no hope, [there’s] no future. We have to have hopes.”
Now, Satala credits Jaime’s love and dedication for helping her overcome Guillain-Barré syndrome.
“Means that he loves me,” she told WOOD. “I guess that’s what you do when you love someone.”