SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – An amazing comeback was made this past weekend at the U.S. Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines. It involved a fan, not the golfers.
Shane Sumlin, of Shreveport, and his son, Kasch, got to take in John Rahm’s dramatic come from behind victory. The two walked the course for hours, enjoying the tournament.
It’s something unimaginable year’s ago. It’s because a rare syndrome left Shane paralyzed from the neck down.
“In November of 2011, I was normal. Whatever the definition of normal is, and when I woke up one morning I had weakness,” said Sumlin. “Immediately I thought, ‘It can’t be that bad’. So I tried to have a normal day, and as the day went on I had muscle weakness in my legs. 24 hours later I was completely paralyzed from my neck down.”
He was stricken by a rare syndrome called Guillain-Barre. A rare disorder where a person’s immune system attacks the body’s nerves.
“I was not familiar with it. On average one in every 100,000 are actually diagnosed with it,” said Sumlin.
All his motor functions were lost. For weeks he laid motionless in a hospital bed.
“Emotionally, I had to go through a few weeks of a reset,” said Sumlin. “I believe that most of the outside world around me was freaking out, so I had to keep my calm.”
Guillain-Barre requires extensive physical therapy in order to use one’s arms and hands again. To walk, it requires even more.
That’s where Dr. Suzanne Tinsley comes in. She is the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement at LSU Health Shreveport. She has three plus decades of experience in dealing with neurological injuries suffered by patients.
“Having worked with patients with Guillain-Barre, you have to get after it early,” said Dr. Tinsley. “[Shane] couldn’t raise his arms. He couldn’t use his hands. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t stand. I knew that it was going to take some time. These nerves will heal, but they don’t heal in a short amount of time.”
And so the recovery process began at LSU’s School of Allied Health.
“I had to get on the floor [at the School of Allied Health], and I had to learn how to crawl,” said Sumlin. “The first day that I learned how to crawl was excruciating.”
He figured things would quickly improve. They didn’t.
“My idea of therapy was maybe a few months. And that turned into a few years. It was years of therapy in here,” said Sumlin.
4.5 years to be exact.
With her voice cracking and tears filling her eyes, Dr. Tinsley admits the severity of Shane’s condition had her questioning the potential end results.
“Inside it made me a little sad because I thought, ‘Mmm, I’m not sure we’re going to get there,” she said.
There’s good reason she still gets emotional when talking about Shane’s rehab. She was the baby-sitter to Shane’s wife, Kristy, as a teen.
“Knowing him. Knowing his wife. Knowing his family. I don’t think that was an option for him not to be able to walk again,” said Dr. Tinsley.
They pushed through, together.
“We were never afraid to fail. Sometimes we did, but we adapted and we kept moving forward,” said Sumlin. “I needed a coach. Someone who could push me. Make me do things that I didn’t even want to do myself. And that’s what she did.”
Shane went from crawling, to standing, to walking, to running.
Eventually feeling strong enough to walk the coastal hills of Torrey Pines in San Diego for the U.S. Open along with his son.
“If you have the faith to trust your instincts. An amazing wife and kids. Friends. Come in the path of the right people. And you’re in the right facility. Then you can give yourself a chance, which give you hope,” said Sumlin. “And that’s a huge thing. It’s the number one thing that I was looking for was hope.”
He found hope. Dr. Tinsley found inspiration.
“He’s a family man. He loves his wife. He loves his kids. So when I see him, and like this past week with the vacation he was able to take with his son, that means a lot to me,” she said. “Those are things he might not have been able to do. So to know that you had some part in him being able to continue to be the man that he is, a husband to his wife, a father to his kids. That’s important.”