Lakeland paramedic returns to work after fighting for life, recovering from rare neurological disorder

Local News

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A paramedic says he has a new lease on life and a new understanding for his patients after a difficult journey with Guillain Barre Syndrome.

“Couple months ago, I didn’t think it would happen, laying there completely paralyzed,” said Steve Connors, a driver engineer and paramedic with Lakeland Fire Department, about returning to work on Tuesday.

The first sign of trouble was a numb left toe while at work at Fire Station 7 near Lakeland Linder Airport.

The next morning, his right toe was numb.

Soon, he was at Tampa General Hospital unable to move.

Courtesy Steve Connors

“Most people get it in their knees or their waist. Mine progressed all the way to my forehead,” said Connors.

He was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune and neurological disease that attacked his nervous system.

“If you’ve ever had an exposed tooth, a nerve, how much that hurts, just think of the whole body doing it,” he said. “It was like pouring lava down my spine, ripping the muscle off my bones. Even with morphine, fentanyl, whatever they were pumping into me, it was still unbelievably painful.”

Connors suffered from hospital-acquired pneumonia. One of his lungs collapsed. He required a tracheotomy to breathe.

With physical therapy and a good amount of grit, Connors fought back.

His fellow men and women of the Lakeland Fire Department were by his side, visiting him at the hospital and donating 906 hours of paid time off when his ran out.

“As bad as it was at times and when we saw him at his lowest, we always knew the heart and the drive that that guy had, that he would come back to work,” said Lakeland Fire Chief Doug Riley. “And that he would not stop until he got back to where he was.”

Connors returned to work on Tuesday, back behind the wheel of his rescue truck.

He believes he’ll offer a new level of understanding to the patients he interacts with every day.

“I know there’s so much turmoil going on in the country and the world and everything like that. You got to sometimes just stop and look at what you have. You have a family, you have this and that. You’re walking around. You’re breathing,” he said.

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