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Neurological disorder linked to COVID-19 leaves La. firefighter paralyzed

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 4:31 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - St. Bernard Parish Fire Department District Chief Rory Miller was admitted to Ochsner North Shore earlier this month. He’s been battling COVID-19 and complications from the infection since.

Now he’s paralyzed from the waist down.

More: St. Bernard Parish firefighter battling COVID-19 complications

He says doctors diagnosed him with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which they believe was triggered by COVID.

“I think this is even worse than the COVID battle because I walked in here but I’m not walking out because I lost my legs, I’m currently paralyzed,” said Miller.

According to the CDC, Guillain-Barre is a rare autoimmune disorder that damages nerves, leading to muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

“Guillain-Barre is very closely associated with infection so it’s not surprising that COVID, being a viral infection, would trigger or cause neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre,” said Rima El-Abassi, M.D. with LSU Health Neurology.

El-Abassi doesn’t treat Miller, but says the link between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre has been well-documented. She says doctors have also seen it following infection with the Zika virus.

“More and more research and case reports, actually by the hundreds of patients, have been reported where there has been an observed linkage between COVID-19, SARS virus, and Guillain-Barre,” El-Abassi said.

While Guillain-Barre is a more severe complication, El-Abassi says some patients are dealing with other forms of neuropathy or nerve damage following a COVID-19 infection as well as lingering symptoms like memory loss and depression.

“There are, neurologically speaking, well-published cognitive impairments, psychological impairments, and memory impairments that are long-term. What is well-known is that the deficiency of smell and taste that has been documented to last for months and months after the infection,” said El-Abassi.

As for Miller, he continues to fight to walk again. It’s a battle he’s determined to win.

“I understand long-term I will walk again, God willing, and the amount of work I am going to have to do to get there is going to be a psychological and physical struggle that I have yet to go up against,” said Miller.

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