Former House Speaker Allan Bense talked publicly about his fight against a rare autoimmune disease and relearning basic functions in this Sunday's Panama City News Herald. An excerpt:
Former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense says he’s feeling better; his weight has stabilized and he’s starting to regain control of his body — a far cry from when he "almost bought the farm a couple of times."
The Panama City resident has Guillain-Barré syndrome and is in an Atlanta hospital undergoing intense rehab as he fights to relearn how to perform everyday activities, like walking, talking and eating. He started rehab last week and is making progress; just holding and carrying on a decent conversation is one example, he said.
"Guillain-Barré syndrome — basically your autoimmune system turns on you; it just kills all of your nerve endings, and I frankly almost bought the farm a couple of times," he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The disease is very rare, hitting only one in 100,000 people. It comes out of nowhere. He felt as if he was having a heart attack on Sept. 8 and went to Gulf Coast Medical Center, but continued to get weaker and a week later was transferred to Shands Hospital in Gainesville.
From there he returned to Panama City and underwent six rounds of plasma exchange treatments. The process removes blood from the body, separates the red and whites blood cells from the plasma, and then the blood is returned to the body without the plasma, according to the National Institutes of Health website.
Now, Bense, 62, appears to be out of the woods and his optimism is growing as improves. He's at the Shepherd Center — an Atlanta hospital that specializes in treating spinal cord and brain injuries.