Earlier this week, Brianna Deines was teaching.
That might not surprise people who know the Fremont woman, because she is a teacher.
But Deines wasn’t teaching at a local school on Tuesday morning.
Instead, she was working with 14-year-old Thomas Reynolds at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’, Omaha Campus — where they’ve both been having therapy.
Deines is sixth-grade language arts teacher at Fremont’s Johnson Crossing Academic Center. In August, she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves.
While here’s no cure for Guillian-Barre, most people make a full recovery.
Deines went to Madonna for physical and occupational therapy in mid-September.
And through Madonna’s work re-entry program, she began working with Thomas, who was injured in a car accident last summer and came for therapy on Sept. 6.
The two have gotten along well.
Deines has been inspired by her young student’s resilience, while he’s appreciated working with someone who can relate to him from a patient’s perspective.
Such perspective can be important for people who’ve undergone difficult situations such as an illness or accident.
While doctors suspected Deines had Guillian-Barre, it would take several MRIs and a couple of spinal taps to confirm that diagnosis, she said.
The exact cause of Guillian-Barre is unknown, but it often occurs after a virus or bacterial infection and doctors would determine that’s what happened in Deines’ case.
A virus had triggered the Guillian-Barre.
Deines’ symptoms began in August when she had a tingling feeling in her hands and feet. That feeling began moving up her legs.
“I just thought I was weak and had a cold,” she said.
Deines’ sons, Reid, 4, and Larson, 2, had been sick.
“I figured I had the same thing,” she said.
But her condition worsened and she became unable to walk. Her sister and mom took her to the hospital. Deines later was admitted to an Omaha hospital’s intensive care unit.
At Nebraska Medicine hospital, she first had five doses of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a plasma product used to treat immune system-related conditions.
Deines then was sent to Madonna.
“After a week, I was declining so they sent me back,” she said.
She then had plasmapheresis, a plasma exchange in which the blood is filtered. Two weeks later, she returned to Madonna.
Her therapy would include time on the Lokomat, a robotic treadmill training system.
The Lokomat uses a body weight support system to suspend individuals while their legs are attached to robotic legs that help with basic walking functions.
As part of her therapy, Deines also participated in Madonna’s work-re-entry program. The program involves taking part in a real work environment by volunteering at Madonna.
Deines worked with Thomas in Madonna’s Therapeutic Learning Center. She began by watching Madonna’s Omaha campus teacher, Jackie Poulas, work with Thomas on math. Deines would work with Thomas on reading skills, comprehension and vocabulary.
She spent about 30 to 45 minutes, four different times with Thomas, who read short stories to her. She’d listen, stopping him to ask questions.
“Even though Thomas is older than (students) I have taught, it’s nice to be with a kid,” she said.
Thomas has appreciated working with Deines.
“She’s experiencing the same things that I am,” he said.
Both have dealt with some double vision and blurriness. She no longer has double vision, but still has had some blurriness.
Thomas’ symptoms occurred after a roll-over car accident that happened July 20 out in the country near Aurora, South Dakota. A high school freshman from Brookings, S.D., Thomas sustained a traumatic brain injury from the accident and lost some skin on the side of his head. He doesn’t remember the accident.
At Madonna, he’s been involved in physical and occupational therapies and in the Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC). In the TLC program, a certified teacher with extra rehabilitation training and experience works with inpatients and outpatients – to help them return to their community schools.
Thomas has read short stories to Deines, whom he said has helped him. Thomas said he’s liked working with her.
“She’s kind of in the same situation I am. We’re both at Madonna as patients — but I’m not very patient,” he quipped.
Thomas said he looks forward to going home in October to see his black and white cats — Charlie and Buster, named after silent film stars Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The teen enjoys talking about other animals back home, including dachshunds, Strudel and Schnitzel, and his horses, Buddy and Happy.
He wants to see his pals at school and attend the South Dakota State University Homecoming in Brookings.
“I’m planning on buying a big, old keg of root beer,” he said, enthusiastically.
Deines, who was set to go home on Wednesday, was enthusiastic, too.
“I’m really excited to get home and see my kids,” she said.
She’ll have outpatient therapy at Madonna.
“I still can’t walk. I get fatigued fairly quickly so I’m not quite sure when I’ll go back to school,” she said.
Deines, who has taught school for eight years, said she loves teaching. She has appreciated staff at Madonna.
“They’re all very supportive and, like Thomas, everyone has a really good personality, great sense of humor, which definitely helps,” she said.
Deines expressed admiration for Thomas and noted what she’s learned from him.
“He has been through a whole lot more and definitely has made a lot of progress, which is inspiring,” she said. “He has a really good sense of humor and personality. Instead of being bitter, it’s nice to see somebody young like that who still wants to do his stuff and get back to his normal life after everything he’s been through.”