Keith Ballantine was struck down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome after consuming too many liquorice allsorts – which gave him an upset stomach.
Doctors believe the antibodies he produced to fight the upset stomach caused his body to react badly – and Mr Ballantine, from Worcester, then developed the deadly nerve disease.
Within weeks, he was completely paralysed – and only now, a year later, has he managed to relearn to walk again.
The 68-year-old said: ‘I ate a whole packet of liquorice allsorts in one sitting – they were always my favourite treat.
‘I ended up having a bit of an upset tummy, and a week later, I was struggling to get out of bed.
‘It’s been an absolute nightmare. I lost three stone in a month and it’s taken me a year to start walking again.’
He first noticed something was wrong shortly after eating the sweets when he couldn’t turn the ignition in his car.
‘My thumb felt weak but I brushed it off as old age – just as I did when I lost the feeling in my feet.’
After struggling to get out of bed the following week , his wife Jennifer, 64, took him to their GP in September 2012.
His condition deteriorated rapidly as he lost feeling in almost all of his body and he was admitted to hospital while doctors frantically tried to diagnose his mystery illness.
It was only when a doctor asked him whether he had had been unwell in the previous weeks and he remembered his stomach bug that he realised GBS was a possibility.
As a former nurse, he was aware of the symptoms and knew the seriousness of the situation.
GBS usually occurs when antibodies produced by the immune system to fight an infection also start attacking the nervous system.
Although it only affects one in every 40,000 people, sufferers normally lose mobility and spend months in rehabilitation relearning to use their limbs.
Consultant Neurologist Dr John Winer is an expert on GBS and how it develops. He said: ‘In 75 per cent of cases of GBS there is a history of infection and that can be caused by either bacteria or a virus.
‘We can identify which infection GBS developed from in half of all cases, but we don’t understand it completely and in a large number of cases, the cause of the GBS is unclear.
‘There are hundreds and hundreds of infections which are incriminated as triggers although some are more likely than others.’
Caroline Morrice, director of the Guillain-Barré support charity, Gain, said: “This is a matter of much research and the causes of GBS just aren’t always known.
‘However it definitely could have been related to these liquorice allsorts.
“But it’s like all rare illnesses – we need to do more research to help people such as Keith.’
After his three month stint in Worcester Royal Hospital, Keith left hospital in December still in a wheelchair.
It was another four months before he could take his first steps unaided thanks to a painful course of physiotherapy and he now tries to walk a mile a day.
Amazingly, Keith has made an almost complete full recovery and has just begun driving again.
He said: ‘Although I’m not the man I was, there’s no point crying “why me?”. I’ve just been very unlucky.
‘If you’d asked me two years ago which, of all the illnesses I could get, which one would scare me most, I would have said GBS.
‘There’s something about this illness, it’s so horrible – I really feared it. I’m just so thankful that my family have been there to support me through my recovery.’
Source: Daily Mail