Donations to help pay for Rae Steele's extensive hospital stay can be made out to Raeanna Steele or the Raeanna Steele Fund and sent to Mountain Valley Bank at P.O. Box 774766, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477, or dropped off at 2201 Curve Plaza, Suite 101A.
Rae Steele is a big baby, her mother said Wednesday. A 17-year-old baby that mom Terri Steele is watching learn how to sit, stand and walk all over again after a debilitating disorder rendered Rae paralyzed and in the hospital for nearly two months.
Now, with the help of a physical therapist, Rae is beginning to move on her own.
"Not to brag, but it's kind of a big deal," she said from her room in The Children's Hospital in Denver.
Rae was struck with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder with no known cause or cure that turns the body's immune system against the nervous system. If not diagnosed quickly, the paralysis can lead to death. It is not contagious.
The disorder strikes about one in 10,000 people, and recovery times vary widely. The average is about four to five months. Rae hopes to be out of the hospital in two and a half.
Rae noticed the first symptoms at the end of December when her legs tingled from the knees down. Then, her hands began to go numb, and her arms were difficult to lift. Within a few days she was unable to walk, and she soon lost her ability to talk. Even her lungs became paralyzed, and she was only able to breathe with the help of a ventilator.
"It was just a weird experience, it came on so fast," she said. "Within a week, I was completely paralyzed."
Rae said she doesn't remember much from her first days in the hospital because she was heavily sedated. She has been told she contracted pneumonia twice during her hospital stay, but she has recovered faster than her doctors expected.
Terri Steele said her daughter is a bit like Bambi as she once again learns to walk.
"She has to remind her body that she can do that stuff," she said.
Rae said her legs still are numb from the knee down, and even basic exercises are difficult.
"It's things like standing up and walking. I'm terrified of standing up right now," she said.
Rae missed her final two weeks at the Yampa Valley School. She planned to graduate in January. Jane Toothaker, executive director of the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which oversees the school, said the missing days would not prevent Rae from earning her diploma.
"We're just trying to be flexible with her medical leave," Toothaker said. "She's been a wonderful student to have, and we're excited for her to graduate and move on to other exciting things."
Rae said she was planning to attend college in Denver after her graduation, but that plan may have been put on hold for a while.
"The next step is getting fully better, because I'm not going to leave here fully better," she said. "I'm going to leave here in a wheelchair and be able to walk short distances maybe. It's the endurance factor you have to build up."
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