From the moment Philip Tonnellier got sick, it was only 16 hours before he was completely paralyzed from the neck down. That’s how fast Guillain-Barre syndrome works.
It’s been more than four months since the former Golden resident was struck with the affliction, and now a local group is getting together to help Tonnellier and his family bear the financial burden this has placed on them.
“He lived in Golden for about 15 years. And he still has some good friends here,” said Gary Foyston, who is organizing a garage sale to raise money for the Tonnellier family.
“We were looking at ideas, things we could do to help. And my neighbour suggested it (a garage sale), and we thought it would be a good idea to scare up some money.”
Tonnellier was in the Philippines in January when Guillain-Barre attacked him.
“Your body thinks it has a virus, and it attacks itself. It totally destroys your central nervous system. Then you become paralyzed, and it doesn’t take very long,” said Foyston.
“He was totally paralyzed right from the neck down. And it could have, would have killed him, but it stopped at his lungs. And he’s got about half capacity in his lungs.”
He was taken to hospital and treated in the Philippines, but the family eventually had to spend $19,000 on a flight to get him back to Canada. He is now recovering at Foothills Hospital in Calgary.
Foyston is now helping Tonnellier’s wife Maretes, who moved from Golden to Mackenzie two years ago, pack up all their stuff in Mackenzie to move to Calgary. The couple has eight children, three of whom are still very young and live at home.
“They’ll have to sell everything they own basically, to stay alive,” said Foyston. Tonnellier owns a computer programming business, which his partner is running while he recovers. Guillain-Barre sufferers have varying degrees of recovery, and although Tonnellier is expected to make a full recovery, he will be in the hospital for a couple more months. And once he is released, he will still be going back and forth for physiotherapy.
“He’s in very good spirits,” said Foyston. Tonnellier can move his torso and has some movement in his shoulder and thumb. “So he says he can still go quading.”
The garage sale to support the Tonnellier family will be taking place on May 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1009 King Cresent.