Michigan woman credits love with quick recovery from rare illness

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A 22-year-old Michigan woman diagnosed with a rare condition says love – and her boyfriend's surprise proposal – helped her push through rehabilitation.

Olivia Satala told WXMI, "I didn't expect anything like this to ever happen to me."

She was referring to the last four months of her life after she started feeling something odd in December and was ultimately diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an illness that causes a person's immune system to attack the nerves.

Olivia says, "So I was completely healthy, I was doing regular college student things, I was working going to school and I was finishing finals, and noticed tingling in my finger tips. I assumed it was just from all the writing I was doing taking notes and studying."

But it wasn't. Gradually that tingling grew.

Olivia explains, "The doctors kept say I was having a migraine, and then 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!’."

After five trips to the doctor Olivia was finally admitted to the hospital.

"It was like this hollow feeling and I realized I didn’t feel like I was touching my own body... like I would touch my stomach, my legs, or thighs and it didn’t feel like I was touching myself because the rest of my body wasn’t perceiving it," says Olivia.

Most people recover from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which can cause paralysis during the illness and may last several weeks or months.  In the case of severe symptoms, however, patients may not feel better for years. In rare cases it can cause death.

In January, she was sent to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for physical therapy and her boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, Devan Jaime, was by her side for each part of her treatment.

"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," he said.

Every attempt at a step, every shot, every test, Devan was there.

It was one month into rehabilitation in February, when all hope seemed lost, that he decided to give Olivia a little extra encouragement.

"We were talking, and it was a rough day, and she didn’t quite understand why I was doing what I was doing, so I decided to show her."

Olivia recalled the moment, saying, "On the 24th, after a pretty intense, emotional break down, like hitting a low point, Devan asked me to marry him!"

After months of being numb, Olivia said that surprise proposal sparked something within, "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!'"

Olivia has since progressed so quickly and is moving so well that Tuesday was her last therapy session at the hospital.

With her now-fiance by her side, the young fighter is ready for a new chapter together. Olivia said jokingly, "Now I have to walk down the aisle, and I don’t want to do that in a walker, sooo ... "

She and Devan leave Wednesday, April 3rd for Saginaw where Olivia has six months of out-patient therapy. Olivia is hoping for a full recovery from Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

After that therapy, the young couple plans to move back to Grand Rapids where they’ll be very busy because their wedding date is officially set for October 19th, 2020.

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