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This fundraiser ended on 10/24/12

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The family and friends of Michael Lea are raising money to help with his ongoing struggle with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Please help!

On October 30, 2011, at age 37, Michael Lea was diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This extremely rare disease strikes about 1 in 100,000. It is often connected with the flu vaccine, which Michael had just before the illness. Guillain-Barre is a progressive, paralyzing disorder. Within four days of the diagnosis, Michael was unable to move anything below his chin. He was placed on a ventilator to keep him breathing when his respiratory muscles failed and had a feeding tube placed surgically because he could not eat or drink. After many weeks in the acute care hospital, Michael moved to a rehabilitation hospital, where expert therapists helped him to recover the use of his limbs so that he could walk and take care of himself again. He was in intensive therapy for 4+ hours every day before being released. However, less than a week later, Michael was back in the hospital due to multiple potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolisms; both of his lungs were full of blood clots because if his extended time of immobility. After being treated and released for the pulmonary embolism, Michael continued on blood-thinning medications to clear out the clots and prevent new ones from forming. This requires constant check-ups with the doctors. Michael continued to attend outpatient therapy at the rehabilitation hospital, eventually regaining the strength and balance necessary to walk without a walker. Unfortunately, soon after discharge from rehab, his mother had a stroke and was herself hospitalized. Michael and his wife, Amy, moved in with her to help her out. Unfortunately (again), just a few days after bringing his mother home, Michael fell and broke his ankle. It was not a simple break; both bones were broken in three or more places each. No doubt the continuing post-paralysis weakness in his ankles contributed to the fall. The broken ankle required more than five hours of surgery, six pins, multiple screws, wires, a plate and a bone graft. The inner ankle bone had to be essentially rebuilt from shards. Surgery was complicated and made potentially dangerous by the blood-thinners but was successful. The orthopedic surgeon said that Michael would not be able to put any weight on his left foot for another three months. His muscles still had not recovered from the period of paralysis caused by Guillain-Barre and will continue to atrophy in these months of inactivity. He could have an even more difficult time learning to walk again this time than he did before. Today Michael is still in a wheelchair. He is a self-employed writer and attorney with no health insurance. His ability to work in these times of illness and injury has been severely limited or nonexistent. There is a federal fund that will sometimes pay the medical bills of people injured by vaccines. However, we have been cautioned by experts that it will not help us. Michael's onset happened so quickly after the vaccine that his disease will almost certainly be attributed to other causes. We would have to prove that the vaccine caused the Guillain-Barre, and that is essentially impossible since no one really knows exactly what causes it. With no other way to pay, our family is facing bankruptcy. Not only would this be personally difficult and damaging to our credit, it would mean that the doctors, hospitals, therapists, and nurses that helped us would not be compensated. Michael received excellent care from wonderful doctors, nurses, and therapists who never predicated their work on our ability to pay. We want to pay our bills, but there is simply no way we can do it without help. We realize the amount listed as our goal is daunting. Michael has had multiple surgeries and some very expensive treatments. With Michael's care still continuing, we don't even know if that amount would cover everything. Please know that even the smallest donation will help and will be GREATLY appreciated. Anything we can do to satisfy the creditors and collection agencies may help us stay out of bankruptcy. Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and consider helping us. Please consider sharing this page with those you e-mail and your social network connections as well. If you wish to arrange to send a donation directly to us via cash or check, please email us at to make arrangements. Thanks again.
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