Love inspires woman recovering from rare illness

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Shortly before Christmas, 22-year-old Aquinas College student Olivia Satala noticed something was wrong.

“I was waking up with complete numbness of my feet and from there I had pounding headaches,” Satala recalled. “Everything just started going down.”

Within about a week, she could barely swallow.

It took five visits to the doctor and admission to the hospital before she got a diagnosis: Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. It affects only about 1 in 100,000 people.

“After my first treatment, I went into respiratory failure and had a seizure all at once,” Satala said.

That was New Year’s Eve.

“I pretty much blacked out and woke up New Year’s Day in the ICU with a ventilator,” she said. “I had been intubated. I didn’t know what happened. … I was essentially paralyzed from my lower eyelids down.”

But she survived the worst of it, started getting better and was eventually moved to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Last month, she hit a snag in her rehab. So doctors changed her medication and added a steroid to try to give her more energy.

Perhaps more importantly, Satala’s longtime boyfriend Devan Jaime asked her to marry him.

“That pretty much switched my attitude around,” Satala said.

“I just wanted to prove that I was going to be by her side and I was going to be there fighting with her the whole time,” Jaime said.

It motivated Satala to push her recovery forward.

“Means that he loves me,” she said. “I guess that’s what you do when you love someone.”

Her doctor noticed the improvement.

“We are there as the coach. Unless the people play the sport, we aren’t going to get anywhere,” Dr. Sam Ho said. “(With) no hope, (there’s) no future. We have to have hopes.”

Satala’s hopes are looking brighter every day. She is scheduled to leave Mary Free Bed Wednesday. She eventually plans to go back to school, and she and Jaime have even picked out a wedding date: Oct. 10, 2020.

“Just being by her side is all that I needed,” Jaime said.

Satala said her goal is to walk down the aisle on her own.

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