Davenport medic relearning to walk after medical condition left him paralyzed

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DUBUQUE, Iowa -- A Davenport medic is relearning how to walk after a rare medical condition left him paralyzed. Despite the long road to recovery, though, he says he considers every day a gift.

In May, Austin Bird was a healthy, 24-year-old EMT.

He woke up with tingling in his feet one morning, but didn't think much of it. Just days later, he was paralyzed.

"Even now, I'm forgetting what it was like, because it was that horrific," said Bird.

Bird was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own nervous system.

He experienced increasing paralysis, which moved from his extremities to his core. Eventually, Bird was intubated, and he spent three months on a ventilator.

"I thought, 'Oh, it's just a little thing,' and it turned into seven months of the worst nightmare. To see your kid get Last Rites, fully paralyzed... what do you say?" recalls Austin's mom, Anna Adams.

Despite a year full of challenges, Bird is counting his blessings today.

"You really learn who's there for you and who cares about you throughout this. It's a very emotional thing to not be able to speak, talk or eat for three months," said Bird.

Bird has had to re-learn how to eat, dress, and use a cell phone. With the help of parallel bars and therapists at Stonehill Rehabilitation in Dubuque, though, Bird is now walking short distances.

It may have seemed unlikely just months ago, but doctors expect Bird will make a full recovery, as most people with Guillain-Barre syndrome do.

Now, he and his mom hope others will be inspired by this story.

"You have to be a fighter. He's fought, I've fought, and we'll do whatever we can until he's back up and walking," said Adams.

Bird's ultimate goal is to return to work by the end of the year.

Bird says he is especially thankful for the support of his Medic EMS family. He's hoping to return to a desk job later this month, and eventually go on to paramedic school next fall.

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