It began as a quiet family vacation in B.C.’s Southern Interior, but ended in a life-changing handful of days that robbed Dave Jones of his sight, speech and movement.
The Metro Vancouver Transit Police chief officer was just one month away from retiring when he woke up on Aug. 30 with numbness in his hands and feet. Less than 24 hours later, his symptoms had worsened to include a change in his voice, an inability to swallow food, a loss of balance and double vision.
Jones told Global News he chalked the early symptoms up to a having slept in a strange position, but after visiting the Oliver Hospital, it became clear he would need help from more advanced neurological equipment. While in Hope for a short rest before reaching the Lower Mainland, Jones said he fell outside of his car.
“As I got out, my vision went like, double vision, blurry,” he recalled, at home and in recovery after emergency treatment. “I was unable to get up … so at this time, I’m bleeding from a bad cut, my speech is going.”
A stranger helped get Jones back to the car, and Jones said his wife drove him straight to the Royal Columbian Hospital, where he was eventually diagnosed with a rare disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome.
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“It’s a neurological issue that affects your movement, your nervous system. It’s the body attacking itself,” Jones explained.
Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control, is a rapidly progressing disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, causing damage that can lead to muscle weakness and paralysis. Its precise cause is not fully understood, but it commonly follows a viral or bacterial infection.
It affects an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people in the U.S. each year.
Jones said he had food poisoning about 10 days before the onset of his symptoms.
At the Royal Columbian Hospital, he said he was fed by tube — unable to swallow. His mind was intact, but he couldn’t speak, and at one point, was struggling to breathe.
“You’re numb. You can hear that they’re calling people to your room right? That becomes a bit of a blur after that. From there, I was taken down to the ICU. You know, my family fills me in a bit here.”
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When physicians had eliminated other possible causes for Jones’ symptoms, he was treated for Guillain-Barré syndrome. His recovery prognosis is good, he added, but it will take time to recover his full strength.
“It really did drive home to me the importance of people around you. I would not be where I am today without the support of my family, particularly my wife,” he said.
Jones was set to retire from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police on Sept. 30. Prior to that, he had served as chief of the New Westminster Police Department.
His policing career spanned close to 40 years altogether.
“You have to share things with other people and you have to involve them and spend time with them, because you’re going to need them in some way,” he said.
“At some point, you’re going to realize that you’re not invincible and somebody is going to help you, as opposed to thinking you’re the one who’s always going to be there to help others.”
Jones said he has a new appreciation for the little things — special moments in time — like anniversaries and dates with the grandkids. He’ll be enjoying both in his retirement, feeling very “fortunate” to be able to do so, he added.
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