Belfast Telegraph

Health scare was my darkest time ever, says Retail NI chief Glyn Roberts

Glyn Roberts back at work in Ballyhackamore office
Glyn Roberts back at work in Ballyhackamore office
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The chief executive of Retail NI has said he feared he would never walk again after being diagnosed with a rare and serious nerve condition.

Glyn Roberts (46) said he first began to feel pins and needles a month ago and within days he was struggling to walk.

The Belfast man was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital for nearly three weeks. He has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The condition affects around one in 10,000 people and causes numbness in the hands, feet and limbs.

Although most people make a full recovery with treatment, in some cases it can be life-threatening and can cause long-term complications.

A regular gym-goer and healthy eater who has not needed an overnight stay in hospital for over 30 years, he said he was terrified his symptoms would be permanent.

"After feeling pins and needles I wasn't able to walk within five days," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

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"It was incredibly scary. When I was first admitted I was on a trolley for five hours and barely able to move.

"I thought: 'Is this it, am I going to have live the rest of my life disabled?'

"I also wondered if it would get progressively worse, as I had a grandmother who died of motor neurone disease.

"It was probably the darkest time ever in my life. You do think about the worst case scenario. The lowest point was getting the CT scan, but an hour or so later the doctor told me they were fairly certain of my diagnosis.

"They told me it was treatable - that was a huge weight lifted off me."

The road to recovery began immediately when he was admitted to a neurology ward.

"I understand it's a form of viral infection where the body attacks the nerves thinking it's a viral infection that needs to be fought," he said.

"It can affect people much more severely in terms of their breathing to the point they end up in intensive care."

Mr Roberts added he was overjoyed to finally walk out of the hospital doors on Monday.

"I was determined once I got the diagnosis to walk out of there, rather than being pushed out on a trolley," he said.

"Yesterday, that's exactly what I did even if I did upset a few of the nurses by doing it."

Mr Roberts said he decided to share his experience on social media to urge others with similar symptoms to seek medical assistance without delay.

Already back to work in his Ballyhackamore office yesterday, he expects to make a full recovery after a course of physiotherapy in the coming months.

"I'll not be running any marathons this side of Christmas, but I feel very lucky," he said.

"But onwards and upwards, I'm absolutely determined to get back to full health. I'm delighted to be back at work and my colleagues have been fantastic."

He praised the NHS workers who cared for him as "the best of the best" and said it brought home the urgency of bringing Stormont back.

"Seeing all the pressures the staff were under, they still did an amazing job. Without a doubt NHS workers are the unsung heroes of our society," he said.

"With all the cutbacks they face it also makes me wonder how bad things have to get before political parties wake up to the reality that decisions need to be made about the future of our health service.

"You see the amount of patients in beds, not just for days but weeks, who are probably just waiting for a proper care package.

"That shows the social care side needs to be integrated more," he added.

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