LDS missionary makes rapid recovery after coming home early with rare disorder

Posted at 7:32 PM, Dec 19, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- A missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who came home with a rare disorder is making an incredible recovery.

Joey Cottrell was called to serve a two-year mission for the LDS Church, and he was sent to Leeds, England. He was out for less than two months when he began noticing strange symptoms. Weakness in the lower extremities quickly led to paralysis from the waist down.

“It started in my legs, and it was just hard to walk,” Joey Cottrell said. “I got really tired all the time.”

Cottrell was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is a rare auto-immune disorder that attacks the nervous system. Cottrell got sick, and then the antibodies that should have been fighting the sickness began working against him. Joey's father said his son became paralyzed from the neck down and lost 45 pounds.

He was sent home to Utah, where he began plasma treatments at Intermountain Medical Center. The symptoms began to reverse almost immediately.

Joey’s father said the experience has brought him closer to a higher power.

"He really learned how to turn his will over to his higher power,” Shane Cottrell said. “That was a powerful lesson to learn at the age of 19, that I think will benefit him throughout his life, quite heavily."

Medical staff caring for Joey said he is progressing well and should make a full recovery.

Joey Cottrell said he plans to return to England in February to finish the rest of his mission for the LDS Church.

"I want to go back and serve the rest of the two years," he said.

According to the National Institute of Neurological disorders and stroke, "Guillain-Barré syndrome can be a devastating disorder because of its sudden and unexpected onset. In addition, recovery is not necessarily quick. As noted above, patients usually reach the point of greatest weakness or paralysis days or weeks after the first symptoms occur. Symptoms then stabilize at this level for a period of days, weeks, or, sometimes, months. The recovery period may be as little as a few weeks or as long as a few years."