The Reisig family – former residents of Aldergrove – are seeing the holidays in a whole new light after Matt miraculously recovered from the rare onset of a syndrome (Guillian-Barre) that paralyzed the 32-year-old father in March. (Submitted photo)

The Reisig family – former residents of Aldergrove – are seeing the holidays in a whole new light after Matt miraculously recovered from the rare onset of a syndrome (Guillian-Barre) that paralyzed the 32-year-old father in March. (Submitted photo)

‘I’m just happy to be alive’: Once-paralyzed B.C. father makes a full recovery

Matt Reisig recovers, celebrating a Christmas he once thought impossible

Aldergrove-born Matt Reisig is back at home, making holiday memories with his wife and one-year-old daughter Ayla this Christmas.

It’s something many, including Reisig himself, thought impossible after being paralyzed chest-down by Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) in late February.

Reisig was unable to breathe on his own, eat, and hug “daddy’s little girl” for months after first being rushed to Peace Arch Hospital, with what felt like the flu.

RELATED: Paralyzed young father’s condition now stabilizing

“It was tingling in my arms and legs,” Reisig described, “an overall weakness.”

Now, Reisig hopes to raise awareness about GBS – a mysterious inflammatory disorder where the immune system attacks its nerves instead of the virus the body is sick with, according to Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

There is no known cause for the condition.

Initially after falling ill, Reisig – a small-business owner and painter – remembers trying to push back client appointments one week, offering them a discount as an incentive for waiting.

But within seven days, on March 7, the 32-year-old father would be intubated and on life support.

“It’s still hard to talk about,” Reisig told the Aldergrove Star.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.”

After the initial GBS diagnosis, the disorder sucked the “drive” out of him, along with the loss of his motor skills except for slight head, shoulder, and face movements including nods and eyelid twitches.

“I thought GBS had ruined my life,” Reisig told the Aldergrove Star.

Through it all, his wife Ashley stuck by his side at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit, managing to sleep nightly on a pull-out couch in his room.

“I would come home once every four days or so,” she explained. Even her mother, Ayla’s grandmother, relocated from Kamloops to care for the one-year-old full time.

Ayla was uncomfortable and scared seeing her dad incapacitated.

Ashley became Reisig’s main mode of communication, and ultimate source of hope.

She tuned-in to what her paralyzed husband was mouthing with his lips.

And for when she wasn’t in his room, Ashley made a whiteboard list of Reisig’s needs and feelings.

For instance: “I need… suction, a nurse, my wife. Or I feel cold, pain,” she said about the list. Reisig reacted to truths pointed out the only way he could, in minute movements.

“When Matt was at his worst, I was constantly telling him, ‘It’s going to be okay, I know it isn’t now but it will be’ and, ‘This will end. This isn’t forever’ and ‘You’re going to make it through this.’”

A turning point came after Reisig faced a week of especially painful nerve pain, but with extreme effort, moved his fingers. 

Unbeknownst to Reisig, Ashley had been posting regular status updates to her Facebook page, chronicling 147 days of her husband’s condition.

Soon the statuses became the only connection the patient had to the outside world.

Bedridden and defeated, “it got to the point where if Ashley wasn’t there I would ask others to read my update and the comments,” Resig retold.

When he managed to gain wrist and arm movement, he read through all the messages on his own and “had a good cry,” he said.

“You don’t really know how big your village is until you’re going through something.”

An online GoFundMe account for the family has raised over $20,000, which “got [them] through” living and medical expenses, and is still able to accept donations.

There are two days in hospital Reisig will always remember: his wedding anniversary and his first real meal – a reuben sandwich after months of feeding tubes turned-to liquids.

On the Reisigs’ fourth wedding anniversary, he asked his physiotherapist to help him sketch a heart on canvas with the words “I love you.”

The artwork that Resig said “looks like our daughter did it” now rests on their bedside table at home.

Throughout the five-month ordeal, Reisig said he lost a total of 45 pounds, all of which he has gained back, “and five pounds more,” he chuckled.

Undoubtedly, the most crucial part of Reisig’s recovery from GBS was “getting off the ventilator,” Ashley explained. “We would go down to the lowest level of it and then Matt would panic.

READ MORE: Aldergrove father fights for his life after flu turns paralyzing

“It was a mental switch that had to happen in him,” she said. After that occurred, within a week Reisig was breathing on his own, lungs strengthening from their use.

“I told myself I was going to walk again,” Reisig explained about his fight for life. And after 16 weeks in the hospital, he did just that.

Reisig returned home to South Surrey on July 24.

Since going public, Reisig has been able to connect with other victims of GBS, ones as young as 11 years old.

“One boy felt like he couldn’t connect with anyone because of what he went through,” Reisig said about a Calgary child who was diagnosed with GBS.

“He remembers screaming in his head like I did,” frustrated by the inability to move or communicate.

Ashley has also been sent hundreds of messages from people all over the world affected by the disease.

Christmas this year looks a lot different for the Reisigs, who before GBS, found the holidays a hectic time of obligation.

“I’m walking every day, hitting the gym… Ayla likes to lay on my chest and sit with me and watch TV,” Reisig beamed.

The Reisigs have dedicated time to visit with Santa and watch their daughter’s face light-up in wonder of the season.

“It’s all so surreal,” Ashley said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

Crews continue to battle a fire at Rutland’s Olympia Greek Taverna that broke out overnight on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 7. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Burned down Olympia Greek Taverna in Kelowna demolished

The beloved Rutland restaurant went up in flames in October 2020

Const. Kevin Fuglewicz is the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP’s newest member of its Downtown Enforcement Unit. (Vernon North Okanagan RCMP photo)
Vernon RCMP add new downtown unit member

Const. Kevin Fuglewicz joins Downtown Enforcement Unit for rural north operations

Pixabay.
Calling on Central Okanagan volunteers to apply for scholarship

The Central Okanagan Foundation is now accepting applications for its annual Volunteer Spirit Scholarships

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

Most Read