Divine Intervention

Pastor’s healing accelerated through faith and long-distance expertise.

As he walked to the pulpit to give his sermon on Pentecost Sunday three years ago, Pastor Donnie Lewis of the Lakeside Assembly of God in Moultrie, Georgia, felt a tingling sensation in his left foot, as if it had fallen asleep.

With the help of PT assistant Glenn Guterman (left), Donnie is slowly regaining the ability to walk.

He didn’t think much of it at the time, but later that evening, while he was hosting a gathering of parishioners from neighboring churches, Donnie noticed that the tingling sensation had traveled from his left foot to his left knee.

“I was also starting to feel it in my right leg,” Donnie reveals. “By the end of that service, I was walking around like that “Oldest Man” character that Tim Conway used to play on The Carol Burnett Show. I was just shuffling along very slowly.

“So I went home that night thinking I just needed to get some rest. Then, at about 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, I woke up to go to the bathroom. Except when I got out of bed, I couldn’t feel my legs at all. I took one step and hit the floor.”

A visit to the emergency room followed. At first, doctors thought Donnie, 59, was simply dehydrated. When fluids failed to rectify the problem, a specialist who happened to be on call at the hospital that morning was brought in to examine him.

The specialist recognized symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare condition sparked by a bacterial or viral infection that causes the immune system to attack the nerves.
“From what the doctors told me, I probably got it from a steak salad I’d eaten that had some bad lettuce in it,” Donnie explains. “The lettuce was brown and slimy, and I scraped it away and just ate the steak, but it still got to me.”

Mission Trip

As it did with Donnie, Guillain-Barré syndrome can result in long-term paralysis that can extend all the way to the shoulders.

Donnie was diagnosed with the rarest form of the disease, acute motor axillary neuropathy, or AMAN, which takes the longest to recover from. Three years later, in fact, Donnie is still recovering. Though he has regained strength and mobility throughout his upper body, he still cannot stand or walk independently.

That said, Donnie often wonders where he’d be in his recovery had two friends not interceded and offered their services. Those friends are licensed physical therapists Charles C. Donley, PT, and Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD, of Regional Rehab in Spring Hill.

“I’ve known Donnie for many years,” Charles discloses. “We played softball together and did ministry together before he relocated to Georgia. When Paul and I heard what had happened to Donnie, we went to Georgia to see him. We called it a mission trip.”

During that visit about a year and a half ago, Charles and Paul treated Donnie using two of their practice’s signature devices, the Class IV deep tissue therapeutic laser and the HIVAMAT® 200 deep oscillation therapy device.

Those treatments were very different from what Donnie was receiving from his therapists in Georgia, and Charles and Paul offered to provide them regularly if Donnie wished. Last November,
Donnie accepted.

“Donnie just called us up one day and said, I want to come to Spring Hill and get treated by you guys,” Paul remembers. “He actually started coming in January, and now he comes down each week for about three days and we treat him with the laser and the HIVAMAT, in conjunction with other more conventional therapies.”

The laser uses specific wavelengths of red and near-infrared light to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal cells. It works by releasing nitric oxide, which removes congestion and swelling, promotes rapid healing and reduces discomfort while increasing blood circulation.

The HIVAMAT creates gentle impulses that relax muscles and penetrate all tissue layers to remove the inflammatory byproducts that cause pain in cells. In treating Donnie, Charles and Paul asked licensed physical therapy assistant Glenn Guterman, PTA, to target the spinal cord.

“The idea was to throw as much energy into the spinal cord and the nervous system as possible to stimulate everything,” Paul explains. “Glenn has really pushed Donnie through the ringer, but it’s been paying off.”

Accelerated Healing

Since seeking aid from Regional Rehab, Donnie has slowly increased strength and mobility throughout his upper body. He has also regained the ability to stand and walk with the aid of a walker and supervision.

Donnie uses a wheelchair as he still lacks the physical strength to move independently from a sitting to a standing position without aid, but he and the therapists at Regional Rehab are working toward that goal and are confident they’ll achieve it soon.

“I grew up playing football and was an avid golfer before all this happened, but recently, the guys at Regional Rehab had me up and walking 300 feet,” Donnie reports. “It’s a great achievement.

“One of my goals now is to wheel myself to the pulpit some Sunday, and when I ask the congregation to stand, I want to stand with them. I’m not there yet, but that day is coming and it’s coming soon. I have God and the people at Regional Rehab to thank for that.

“Charles, Paul and Glenn and everybody there have been an incredible help. In the time I’ve been going to Regional Rehab, I feel like I’ve had an acceleration in my healing. I believe it’s because they do such a good job with the treatments and keeping me active.”

Donnie also works out at the YMCA back in Moultrie.

“In the time I’ve been going to Regional Rehab, I feel like I’ve had an acceleration in my healing.” – Donnie

“I walk in the pool and do some upper body work with weights, and just as I used to do before all this happened, I was working out to the point of exhaustion, to the point where I couldn’t do one more rep,” he says.

“Then Paul told me that a workout like that is great for your muscles, but terrible for your nerves. I was probably delaying my recovery working out the way I was, so I really appreciated him helping me with that because it’s probably expedited my recovery as well.”

The help Donnie has received from Regional Rehab is also allowing him to help others. He’s so determined to succeed in his quest to regain full use of his body that he’s become a source of inspiration for others struggling with similar difficulties.

“For whatever reason, the Lord has given me an incredible opportunity to provide hope and encouragement to others through this, so I have hospitals calling me all the time, asking me to come and visit people and share my story with them,” Donnie notes.

“I’m more than happy to do it, of course, and one young man that I visited said to me, You know, you’re probably more influential now from a wheelchair than you were from a pulpit. If that’s the case, then that’s a tremendous positive that’s come from all this.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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    • Regional Rehab

      Regional Rehab's ultimate goal is to enrich people’s lives by helping to enhance their physical and mental well being, creating an atmosphere of quality care and optimum healing with a loving touch.... Read More

    • Charles C. Donley, PT

      Charles C. Donley, PT, is director of Regional Rehab. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy, graduating cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh, PA. He is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and Fl... Read More

    • Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD

      Paul Ernandes, PT, PhD, joined the Regional Rehab team in April 2018. His arrival comes after he spent nearly a year serving as the director of physical therapy at Vitality Physicians and Rehab. Paul previously worked for ten years as the dire... Read More