Early Diagnosis Saves Patient’s Life


Early Diagnosis Saves Patient’s Life

Winchester, MA (February 10, 2015) – It’s been nearly a year since Jim Minchello stepped foot in Winchester Hospital. Back in February 2014, he didn’t know if he would ever be able to walk again, let alone meet some of the people who helped save his life. 

Recently, a healthy Minchello got that opportunity to go back to the Winchester Hospital Emergency Department, recount his story and thank the staff that helped save his life.

It was a year ago. The Lynnfield resident had arrived back from a trip to New York. That night, he awoke with severe pain in both his shoulders and neck.

“I initially woke my wife and told her that I’m going to drive myself to the hospital,” Minchello said. “I thought I was having a small stroke, but I didn’t want her to worry.”

Unfortunately, his neck pain was just the beginning. After he was unable to get out of bed due to the pain, an ambulance took him to Winchester Hospital. 

There, Marisa Kearney, MD, an emergency department physician at Winchester, was able to diagnose Minchello with Guillain- Barré syndrome.

“I was in such intense pain,” Minchello said. “I couldn’t move without pain. The slightest change in my sheets would be excruciatingly painful.”

Guillain-Barré is a rare condition that causes the immune system to attack the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or paralysis in the legs, arms, breathing muscles, and face.

Since Guillain- Barré typically presents with foot pain that progresses upward, it was unusual for Minchello to complain of neck and shoulder pain, according to Dr. Kearney.

“We originally thought he may have hurt his neck while shoveling, but after a closer look, we were able to diagnosis him with Guillain-Barré,” Dr. Kearney said. “It’s critical to catch this as early as possible.”

Minchello was then transferred to another hospital where his symptoms initially worsened, leading to temporary paralysis of his legs and vocal chords before he eventually made a full recovery.

“I count my blessing every day,” said Minchello. “A big part of my recovery was the early diagnosis and I have Winchester Hospital to thank for that.”

 For the Winchester Hospital staff, it was an opportunity to see a patient who entered the Emergency Department seriously ill make a full recovery 12 months later.

“It’s so rewarding to see a patient who was so sick have such a good outcome,” said Dr. Kearney.