Dickenson teen with French Polio returns home
By: Lisa Call, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON, N.D. – During a holiday generally filled with giving thanks, family and copious amounts of food, one Dickinson family is giving thanks for their daughter’s recovery and homecoming.
Bethany Kiedrowski, 16, had been hospitalized for about 20 days with a rare auto-immune disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome, also known as French Polio.
Abbi Pierce, epidemiologist for the North Dakota Department of Health, said the disease causes muscle weakness, possible paralysis and can differ in length and severity.
Bethany Kiedrowski’s condition worsened rapidly, leaving her without the use of her arms and legs and at her worst point, nearly left her on a ventilator and feeding tube.
But, things turned around for the teen.
As the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies filled a room in the Kiedrowski home on Thursday afternoon, Bethany Kiedrowski, eyes filled with determination and a certain humbleness, openly shared her experience.
Her parents, Mike and Kathy Kiedrowski, were constantly at Bethany’s Bismarck hospital bedside.
“We kept hearing the doctors use the words mysterious, frustrating, rare, and so at that point we didn’t know if it was still stable or going to digress on us,” Mike Kiedrowski said.
Doctors would not release Bethany Kiedrowski until her progress would span more than two days, said her mother, Kathy Kiedrowski.
“For as quickly as it got worse, I thought I was going to be there for a much longer time,” Bethany Kiedrowski said. “One Saturday, I could lift an arm and that’s when it just hit, ‘I’m getting better and I can do this.’”
Hitting what she deemed was the toughest moment in her recovery, Bethany Kiedrowski attributes the turnaround in her condition to prayer and positive thinking.
“I was just crying to my mom saying, ‘It’s so hard to be positive when nothing’s happening,’ and then I woke up and I could move my arms,” Bethany Kiedrowski said. “From there, I just had this whole new attitude. I knew I was going to get better from there.”
Slowly, each day Bethany Kiedrowski was able to move more and more of her body.
“When I realized I could move my feet, I was constantly moving them,” Bethany Kiedrowski said, giggling. “I just didn’t want to lose that, so I kept going.”
Mike Kiedrowski said his daughter’s foot movement was a major accomplishment.
At one of the most trying points during her hospital stay, a doctor came into Bethany Kiedrowski’s room and gave the teen a dim prognosis.
“He came in and said, ‘Well, you’re getting worse and it doesn’t look like you’re going to walk,’ and then he just left the room,” Bethany Kiedrowski said.
Her determination paid off and she proved one of her doctors wrong.
A few days later, she could move her legs and lift her arm.
The outpouring of support Bethany Kiedrowski and her family received was astounding, Mike and Kathy Kiedrowski said.
The Kiedrowski’s received two messages on their home answering machine from strangers offering to share their experience and hope during the Guillain-Barré recovery process.
“The concern in their voice was certainly indicative in their concern for Bethany,” Mike Kiedrowski said.
A Glen Ullin man, whom the Kiedrowski’s had never met, showed up at Bethany Kiedrowski’s hospital room one afternoon to share his experience with Guillain-Barré.
The man said he read about Bethany Kiedrowski’s condition and felt the need to share his experience with her.
“He helped me understand how he got better so quickly and how I could get better if I just stayed positive,” Bethany Kiedrowski said.
Doctors advised Bethany Kiedrowski vaccinations — which can be linked to an onset of GBS — are something she will most likely need to avoid the rest of her life, Kathy Kiedrowski said.
Already a tight-knit family, the Kiedrowski’s said the experience has shed a new light on what it means to be a family.
“Our emotions have been tapped to the max over the last 20 days and I think we’ve learned that we needed to simply be strong for one another,” Mike Kiedrowski said. “When it was tough for one, the other one stepped up and was strong.”
The teen is able to continue her physical therapy from Dickinson and is aspiring to resume classes part-time on Monday.
“I was always having these dreams of walking again, so hopefully I can do it soon,” Bethany Kiedrowski said.
Bethany Kiedrowski left her Bismarck hospital room with a renewed outlook on life.
“Whenever my friends came to visit me, the first thing I said was, ‘Do not take anything for granted anymore,’” Bethany Kiedrowski said. “Something as simple as tearing off the covers of your bed in the morning, I wasn’t able to do that, or swinging your legs off the bed, I wasn’t able to do that either. And the next time that I do that, I’ll thank God everyday. Thank you for letting me be here right now.”
To view Bethany Kiedrowski’s experience and progress, visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/bethanykiedrowski.
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