South Shields mum 'grateful to be alive' after paralysis caused by life-threatening nerve syndrome

Siobhan Hatch from South Shields. Picture: PA.
Siobhan Hatch from South Shields. Picture: PA.

A pole-dancing mum-of-two thought her "kinky boots" had caused her agonising pins and needles – only to learn they were an early symptom of an illness, which days later left her paralysed.

Siobhan Hatch, 30, of South Shields, came down with a chest infection just days before Christmas in 2014.

Siobhan pictured with her sons. Picture: PA.

Siobhan pictured with her sons. Picture: PA.

The busy mum to Leo, now four, and Andre, now two - who grew up in Eastleigh, Hampshire - thought it was a run-of-the-mill bug.

She didn't even worry when she fell to the floor with a terrible cough, during her festive shop in Asda.

"Maybe I should have been concerned," she said. "But, even though I was coughing so much I couldn't breathe, I just went home.

"I thought it was a terrible chest infection – I didn't know what it would become."

Siobhan, right, with friend Sophie in her stage outfit. Picture: PA.

Siobhan, right, with friend Sophie in her stage outfit. Picture: PA.

Just a few days later, though, her entire body was riddled with pins and needles, leaving her barely able to walk.

But she attributed them to her recent pole dancing session, wearing sexy, knee high, tight PVC boots

"By Christmas Day, I could only walk on the sides of my feet," she recalled. "I felt awful. But I thought it was just because I'd pole-danced a few days earlier.

"I danced once a month in a club and would wear these sexy, high-heeled PVC, knee high boots, with fur trim.

Siobhan in her wheelchair. Picture: PA.

Siobhan in her wheelchair. Picture: PA.

"I thought they'd restricted my movement and given me terrible pins and needles. I thought I'd hit the stage a bit too hard.

"The pins and needles started in my feet, but as I sat on the loo they reached my bum.

"I thought, 'What the hell?' But, even then, I thought they'd go."

Keen for her sons to enjoy Christmas, dancer, model and singer Siobhan, soldiered on through the festivities.

Siobhan onstage. Picture: PA.

Siobhan onstage. Picture: PA.

But by Boxing Day, when she was meant to be preparing a feast for seven friends, she could barely move. Her friends commented that she was walking strangely, but she brushed it off – keen to be a good hostess.

"I felt awful," she said. "I was in agony. The numbness had overtaken my body."

Then, on December 27, when she woke she was paralysed from the waist down.

Her then-partner called 999 and an ambulance, with its blue-lights flashing, soon arrived.

"I was amazed," she recalled. "I thought I'd go to hospital, doctors would give me some tablets and I'd be home for lunch.

"Suddenly, I was in an ambulance being rushed to accident and emergency at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle."

Siobhan, right, dancing with friend Sophie. Picture: PA.

Siobhan, right, dancing with friend Sophie. Picture: PA.

At hospital, doctors examined her and diagnosed Guillain–Barré syndrome.

According to the NHS, this is a very rare and serious condition, affecting the nerves, resulting in numbness, weakness and pain.

Caused when a person's immune system mistakenly attacks and damages their nerves, it can be treated and most people will eventually make a full recovery.

Occasionally, though, it can be life-threatening and some sufferers are left with long-term problems.

"It can be triggered by an infection – like the flu – which is probably how I got it," continued Siobhan. "I'd been ill beforehand and it just developed."

Over the next few days, the paralysis spread up Siobhan's body.

By New Year's Eve – when others were welcoming in the new year – she was unable to feel from the jaw down.

"It was terrifying," she said. "I couldn't do anything. I couldn't hold a knife and fork.

"I was scared."

The woman opposite her also had Guillain–Barré syndrome and together they vowed to battle through it.

"The doctors, nurses and physiotherapists were brilliant too," recalled Siobhan. "I hated being away from my sons, who were with family, especially as Andre was just a baby."

With the medical team's support, a few days into 2015 she walked again.

"It was just a few steps, but it was so, so overwhelming," she said. "I knew then I'd never feel the same about walking, I'd never take it for granted."

Discharged in mid-January, she threw herself back into life.

But it was too soon.

"I had a relapse," said Siobhan. "At the end of February, I was dancing and I collapsed and had to be resuscitated. Doctors weren't sure if it was connected to GBS but I was told I couldn't put my body under stress, so I no longer dance."

Now, she is coping well and hasn't relapsed.

"I do still have long-lasting side effects," she said. "My hands are always cold and I had muscle spasms for a long time. I have no feeling in the tips of my fingers.

"But, I am just grateful to be alive."

Siobhan with her sons at Christmas. Picture: PA.

Siobhan with her sons at Christmas. Picture: PA.