One day you are dropping your vibrant, strong 19-year-old son off to college to play football. Then a few days later, he can’t move, can’t get out of bed, and all kinds of things are going through your head – the least of which being will he play football again.
That’s the nightmare the family of Landry Reynolds went through recently as the former Marshall High standout suffered a then-mysterious illness during his first week as a football player at Siena Heights University.
On one of the first few days of practice as a member of the Siena Heights football team, Reynolds collapsed while running – signaling to everyone something was very wrong.
It ended up being the first sign that would tell doctors Reynolds had contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome – a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves and eventually causing paralysis in your entire body.
Reynolds was taken to the hospital and eventually transferred to see specialists at University of Michigan Health System where he has been given treatment ever since and started his slow recovery.
“The good news is that we found it’s 100-percent treatable. There’s no known cure, but at some point, through treatment, he will be back to 100 percent,” said his mother Lesa Glen Reynolds. “But when it first happened we were all scared. To watch your 19-year-old, that you just dropped off to play college football, and then to see him not able to even roll over in bed, or move his toes, it’s scary.”
After first being diagnosed in August, Reynolds was still at U-M this week, receiving treatment 4-5 hours a day. However, he was scheduled to be released late Thursday or early today and he was feeling well enough to get a ”day pass” from the hospital to attend the Marshall home football game last Friday while in a wheelchair.
When he arrived to see his former Redhawk teammates, he saw they had a sticker on their helmets in honor of him with his name and Marshall number.
“We were approached by our parent group to do something. They asked if I’d be interested in something like that, and of course I was,” Marshall coach Jim Hendershot said. “They wanted his initials, I wanted his number, so we did both.
“We always say it’s a Marshall football family. Just because you are done, doesn’t mean you’re out of the family. Once you are in the family, you are in. You like to look out for your people and support and do what you can do – even if it’s just a simple non-verbal sign that says, hey we’re thinking of you.”
If Reynolds continues to progress as expected, he could again be at tonight’s game as Marshall hosts Pennfield in a newly-formed regional rivalry in Interstate 8 action.
Such an appearance seemed out of the question when Reynolds first went to the hospital.
“For the first week, he was paralyzed. His bladder quit functioning, he couldn’t speak, didn’t have facial expressions,” Lesa Glen Reynolds said. “Now several weeks into it, he was able to stand for the first time (last week) and take a few steps with a walker.”
The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown. The disorder, which in an odd coincidence is also called Landry’s paralysis, is often preceded by an infectious illness such as a respiratory infection or the stomach flu.
Reynolds, who has lost about 25 pounds, knows he has a lot of work ahead of him, but hopes to continue school some time this year and, at some point, the former All-State receiver hopes to rejoin the football team.
“It was really hard to deal with. Not being able to walk is a hard thing to deal with. I’ve been really frustrated a couple of times, but my spirits are up and I think it’s important to stay positive,” Landry Reynolds said. “My coaches and teammates here at Siena have been in to see me and that was great. Heard from a lot of people from Marshall, the varsity team sent a card they all signed – the support has helped a lot.
“The doctors say I will make a full recovery, so I want to get back to taking classes again as soon as I can and I am shooting to be able to play football again by next year.”
The medical staff also told Reynolds he has been able to bounce back from Guillain-Barre syndrome faster than some because he was in good shape, having trained for his freshman year at Siena Heights all summer. Which made the initial news that much harder to hear for those in his circle.
“I was shocked when I heard about it. When it’s somebody young that something like that happens to, it hits you. And it hits your harder when it is people you have spent a lot of time with,” Hendershot said. “He looked pretty good the other day at the game and I’m sure he will bounce back from this. He seemed pretty upbeat, and our thing was to shake his hand, give him a hug and show him how much we supported him. And he appreciated every bit of it. It was touching to see him.”
The Reynolds family just hopes it can get back to the norm of going to football games and watch Landry take the field again. Until then, they are appreciating all the small victories Landry is winning during his recovery.
“This fall is very, very different than what we thought it would be. We were planning on tailgates and football games, now we are just ecstatic he can stand and we are looking forward to the day he can walk on his own again,” Lesa Glen Reynolds said.