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Bense admitted to Atlanta medical center in battle against nervous system condition

AllanbenseFormer Florida House Speaker Allan Bense has been admitted to Shepherd Center in Atlanta this week to undergo rehabilitation for neurological impairments related to Guillain Barré syndrome, according to a statement released by the hospital on Thursday.

According to a description by the Mayo Clinic, Guillain-Barré (ghee-YA-buh-RAY) syndrome is a disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms. These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body. In its most severe form, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization.

According to a Shepherd Center spokeswoman, Jane Sanders, Bense said his goal is to recover after months of rehabilitation under the guidance of a treatment team.

Shepherd Center specializes in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury and neuromuscular disorders such as Guillain Barré syndrome. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center, a private, not-for-profit hospital, is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation.

Sanders said the Bense family is appreciative for the outpouring of support from friends and supporters in Panama City, Tallahassee and elsewhere in Florida. For updates on his progress and to post messages that cheer him on toward recovery, visit Mr. Bense’s CaringBridge website at

Bense was admitted to Shands Hospital in Gainesville in mid-September for the rare nervous system condition in mid-September. According to the family's online journal, Bense went to the ER on Sept. 8 after experiencing what felt like a heart attack.

Bense, 62, served in the Florida House from 1998 to 2006 and was Speaker from 2004 to 2006. He currently serves as chairman of the board for Florida State University’s board of trustees. He is the father-in-law of Will Weatherford, Florida’s current Speaker of the House. Weatherford married Bense’s daughter, Courtney, in 2006.

“The progress Speaker Bense is making is encouraging,” Weatherford said in a statement Thursday. “We are looking forward to him making a full recovery."

On the family's online journal, Courtney wrote Thursday:

"We are all feeling so relieved and thankful because my Dad is finally making great progress this week! After spending a long and hard 10 days in the hospital receiving the plasma exchange, we are seeing exciting results.  The most noticeable progress is in his facial muscles...his smile is BACK!   His voice is stronger, and is sounding just like himself again.  Another huge praise is that he is able to move his arms and fingers. My mother said that this morning he was able to hold a smoothie and get it to his mouth unassisted.  Such drastic improvements from last week.  He is also very excited about his new wheelchair that he is able to operate on his own...Watch out Shepherd patients, Big Daddy is on the loose and enjoying some independence."