Gratitude: This personal testimony of Marie’s experience of Guillain-Barré Syndrome and the devastating impact it had on her body, also gives a message that is faith-filled, inspirational, encouraging and full of GRATITUDE!

Begin with Prayer then Read

John 20:30-31

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence
of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that
by believing you may have life in his name.

Read the Scripture again to yourself.

Share a word, phrase, or sense that touches you.

Then read the ‘Marist Moment’ together and again share what strikes you.

Marist Moment:

“We contemplate Mary
particularly in the simple
hidden life of Nazareth and in the newborn Church,
where she was the soul of the
apostolic community while remaining in the background.”

SMSM Constitution 53

Read the reflection


by Marie Munro

Gratitude can be defined as thankfulness, gratefulness, a feeling of appreciation, or similar positive response to kindness, gifts, help, favours, or other types of generosity.

From time to time, awful things happen, often without warning. In late 2019 life threw me an experience with the potential to leave me disabled and impaired for the rest of my life. Praise the Lord, this was not His plan. Instead, He opened His heart to the loving prayer of His faithful servants across the world.

In response to their gifts of love, time and prayer, He bestowed on me the gifts of a remarkably quick return to full health and the wisdom to listen to, and be obedient to Him, and to only look forward with heartfelt appreciation – gratitude.

One normal Sunday morning, the 23rd of September 2019, to be exact, I rolled out of bed to get ready for Mass. However, instead of standing up, I slumped into a heap beside the bed and began my journey of acceptance, gratitude and, ultimately, obedience and recovery from the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. As happens with some other disorders, it can be triggered by an unrelated infection, most often a gastric flu. In my case, it was a bronchial infection.

The onset of GBS came out of the blue for me. There were no warning symptoms, its onset was rapid and severe. I was taken to hospital by ambulance and the first miracle occurred in that the cause of my condition was very quickly diagnosed by an on-the-ball registrar, resulting in early treatment. For some people, the symptoms are such that it can be days, weeks or months before diagnosis is made, and that can have a dramatic effect on recovery prospects. Within 12 hours, I was totally paralysed from the neck down, as damage to nerve coverings halted all message-transmission from the brain.

An adapted verse from Psalm 91, “The Will of God will not take you where the Grace of God will not protect you”, has been taped on my computer for years. I’ve always trusted its truth so I knew, absolutely, that this paralysis would be temporary and that I would swiftly return to my normal life.

Gaining the wisdom to never again defy or defer the Will of God, took a little longer.

As soon as I was diagnosed, my husband contacted my prayer partner, who put a call out to our prayer network. Her request went viral and mobilised compassionate people across the world to interceded, pray the Rosary, and offer Mass and Benedictions specifically to aid my recovery. To be the focus of so much love is incredibly humbling and healing. By nature, I’m a workaholic and, over the last 20+ years, my Heavenly Father has repeatedly invited me to “slow down”, to “rest and be at peace”. His message has come directly, and through others, but each time I’ve responded with – “Yes, I will, when I finish this, and that, and that, and that”. On Sunday the 23rd of September, I really got His message. He meant business, but he had prepared my lifeline in advance.

The prognosis for a severe case of GBS is likely to include early paralysis and time on a ventilator, with partial recovery after 18 months or longer. Generally, only 80% of GBS patients can walk independently by 6 months, and about 60% attain full recovery of motor strength by 1 year. Up to 10% may need several months of ventilator dependency and have a very delayed, incomplete recovery.

The Neurological team warned me that my recovery would be long and painful, but their predictions failed to consider the healing capability of my prayerful army and the benefit of the early diagnosis. For the first three nights, I received a specialised intravenous infusion to assist recovery. For six days, I had absolutely no control in my life. I couldn’t take myself to the toilet, or feed or wash myself. I was 100% dependent, and even had to be hoisted into a chair, to prevent bed sores. Throughout, a prayer-covering protected me from any confusion, anxiety, fear of feelings of hopelessness. Instead, I was totally immersed in my ‘soup of prayer’, so I luxuriated in a beautiful peace that empowered me to remain positive and up-beat.

Towards the end of those six days, I began to regain the ability to move and control parts of my body. This process provided me with the unique opportunity and wonder of revisiting the stages of my physical development, as this mirrored my recovery progress, from baby to toddler, to fully-able child, and to experience the joy of growing up in a huge and amazingly loving family. My heart still bursts and sings with gratitude.

GBS also provided the opportunity and courage to share, openly, my faith, which encouraged others also to share their faith. How can you not feel grateful when your nurse volunteers to pray with you? Praise the Lord.

I lingered in the high dependency unit for 12 days, before earning a transfer into a regular ward. That day, I first walked with assistance and the registrar who had diagnosed me in A&E just happened to call by to check on my progress. I praise God that the timing of his visit coincided with my walking out of the bathroom so, to his astonishment, I was able to greet him, face-to-face at the door. Three days later, I was discharged to Kenepuru Hospital’s Rehabilitation unit, where I remained for a week. Every physio and Occupational Therapy session saw me 100% focused – “tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it” as I accumulated successes, mastering skills and functionality that I’d taken for granted for decades.

I wasn’t permitted to venture off my bed without a support person, so visitors were pressed into service walking the corridors with me as I retrained my brain for normal walking.

We had originally been warned of ‘probably time on a ventilator and incomplete recovery after 18 months or longer’. Thanks to the prayer of so many faithful servants, the amazing care and skill of hospital staff, and the support of family and friends, that prediction was well wide of the mark.

Three weeks after being rendered totally paralysed, I walked, completely unaided, from the Rehab. Unit to go home. I was given a stick, but I chose to tuck it under my arm. I truly didn’t need it. A short while later, and without any further medical intervention, the hospital’s physio fully discharged me, after a rigorous workout proved that I had regained full, normal function and strength.

Now, six months on, the only impediments to my usual activities and pace of life are:

• Fatigue: 10-12-hour days belong in the past
• sensitivity to heat.
• diminished ability to tolerate stress.

From time to time, awful things happen, often without warning. With the blessing of prayer, I have learned that, even when I have absolutely no control in my life, I still have control over my choice of attitude.

I don’t know why God chose to give me this gift of healing when there are so many in this world imploring healing of every kind for themselves or loved ones and who do not receive that healing. What I do know is that God does hear every prayer and God does answer every prayer, though it is not always in the way we hoped for or expected.
What endures for me from this gift of healing, and the whole experience, is gratitude.

• Gratitude that GBS chose to call on me.
• Gratitude for being restored to full, normal function and strength.
• Gratitude for the grace to relinquish my independent personality and unconditionally accept the love, care and prayers of people who genuinely care for, and about me.
• Gratitude for my new-found wisdom to surrender my wilful nature more readily to the will of Our Heavenly Father.
• Gratitude for the priest who came to anoint me and the hospital chaplain who brought me communion every day – such a source of strength.

Simply Use the Questions below as Starters to Guide Your Sharing
  • What strikes you most from the Scripture or reflection?
  • Share your experience of needing to depend on the goodness of others. What did you learn about yourself and/or about God ?
  • Share your experience of answered prayer. How has it impacted your faith and life?
  • Has God ever answered prayer in unexpected ways that felt like ‘no’? What was the outcome?
  • Sharing how prayer is answered is a way of expressing gratitude. How often do I share about answered prayer ? Why or why not? How can we help others experience the joy of hope in our communities of care and prayer?

Pray for each others’ needs, your community and the world.
Then use this closing prayer:

Lord, when something knocks unexpectedly,
give me the grace to open the door and find you there.
I long to recognise you in my life;
the mundane and the surprising,
the joyful and the disturbing.
When you care for me through others,
give me the grace to receive your love.
When you invite me to support others,
give me courage, compassion and the tenderness of Mary.
When you come in unexpected guise, help me know you and be grateful.
In all things help me be open
to your Holy Spirit. Amen.