Photographer Darrell Oake faces blindness from Guillain-Barré syndrome
Cole Harbour photographer hopes 13 laser eye surgeries will save his sight
A photographer in Cole Harbour, N.S., is recovering from a rare disease that left him mostly paralyzed and he has now learned it could make him blind.
DarrellOake learned three years ago he has Guillain-Barré syndrome. It's a rare autoimmune disorder that can cause weakness and paralysis.
"I noticed a tingling in my feet," he said Monday.
I love him more today than I did when I married him.- Leanne Oake
"It progressed up to my ankle, up my leg, started in both legs and then to the back of my head. If you would have seen me, it looked like I was drunk."
He was confined to a bed and couldn't lift a blanket. Long days of physiotherapy followed.
Friends and family helped Oake get back on his feet. He slowly relearned to walk and today is back in limited action. Oake was a photographer for the defunct Halifax Daily News, the Weekly News and is now a freelancer.
Syndrome now affecting eyes
Oake got difficult news last week. The first sign was a tear rolling down his cheek — but he wasn't crying.
His doctor told him Guillain-Barré syndrome was now affecting his eyesight.
"Two years from now, if I didn't have the treatment, I could be blind. And being a photojournalist, I need these things," Oake said, pointing to his eyes.
He faces 13 laser surgeries to try and save his sight.
His wife Leanne will be at his side, as she has throughout. The couple recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary with their four teenage boys.
"I love him more today than I did when I married him. I love him more than I did three years ago, knowing that he has come such a long way. As his wife, he even inspires me," she said.
Oake connects online to other people with Guillain-Barré syndrome. His wife said it helps him and encourages others.
"There are kids who are six years old with this disease, some who are 12, and sometimes you just need that little inspiration to know that someone else is going through this," Leanne Oake said.
Darrell Oake accepted there was little he could do about the disease, but he could control his attitude.
"There are people out there who think, 'I've got this disease,' and they have a disease and their life is over. Life is just beginning. Don't give up," he said.
Oake begins the eye surgeries in a few weeks.