Veteran raising money for van after rare syndrome leaves him unable to walk

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 22:33:01-04

GRAND JUNCTION, Mich. -- A veteran in Van Buren County is in need of help after his family says a flu shot left him unable to walk.

Heath Bigelow got out of the Army 14 years ago thinking he was safe, but 4 years ago a bad reaction to a flu shot gave him a rare disease that attacked his immune system.  Now, he's asking for help getting a lift van with adaptive steering so he can live a relatively normal life with his kids.

Thursday was a typical hectic afternoon at Bigelow's home in Grand Junction. As his four kids play, he watched from the sidelines.

"Everything's really changed," Bigelow said. "You take for granted the little things that you used to be able to do without a problem."

Bigelow was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome after a flu shot 4 years ago.

"I went to the VA to get my annual flu shot and 48 hours later I was in Ann Arbor in the hospital unable to walk," he said.

He spent more than a week in the hospital.

"They ended up giving me a wheelchair and sending me home and the battle began," he said.

Bigelow's immune system attacks his nervous system, giving him numbness and tingling in his arms and legs and making him unable to walk on his own.

"I've always been a pretty active person so it was kind of a hard one to take," he said.

Bigelow's family friend set up a GoFundMe pageto raise money for a van that can transport his scooter and also install hand controls so he can drive without foot pedals.  He says it would give him his life back.

"It'd be pretty awesome," Bigelow said. "It would mean freedom, it would mean trips to different places we would be able to go. Simple things, parks, you know. Going to the beach, doing whatever."

The CDC says it's very rare to get Guillian-Barre Syndrome from a flu shot, but it is still possible. They say it's more common to get it after having the flu than after getting the shot.