Teen overcomes rare disease to get back in the saddle

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HEBER CITY -- About six months ago a Utah teenager came down with a rare immune system disorder that paralyzed his legs. It usually takes years to recover, but on Wednesday this rodeo kid jumped back on his horse and rode in the state championships.

Jade Hafen grew up riding horses and winning rodeos; that all changed last October. After weeks with pain in his legs, it wasn't until after a rodeo last fall when Jade realized something was seriously wrong. "It just felt like my brain was telling my legs to move and they just wouldn't work," he said.

He collapsed mid-competition and left the rodeo early. Later, he learned he had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare immune system disorder that attacks the nervous system, eventually paralyzing the muscles.

**What is Guillain-Barré syndrome?**
Guillain-Barré (pronounced ghee-YAN bah-RAY) syndrome is a disease in which the body damages its own nerve cells (outside of the brain and spinal cord), resulting in muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. GBS can last for weeks to months. Most people eventually recover completely or nearly completely, but some people have permanent nerve damage and between 5 percent and 6 percent of people who develop GBS die. GBS affects people of both sexes and all ages, and has been reported in all races. It is thought that GBS may be triggered by an infection. *-CDC*

"It was disbelief. I'd never heard of such a thing," said Jade's mother, Kim Hafen.

"I couldn't walk very long or else I'd fall down and really couldn't get myself back up," Jade said.

Jade saw doctors in St. George then went to University Hospital. Physicians there told him it may take years to regain full leg strength, and even then it wasn't guaranteed.

But Jade didn't listen. He started taking IV injections of immunoglobulin and did a lot of physical therapy. He says the first three months were horrible, but he didn't give in.

"I never was worried. My mom was worried enough for the both of us," Jade said.

He started getting the feeling back in his legs around March, and soon after it was back in the saddle preparing for Wednesday's rodeo.

"It's great to be here and realize what you do have. It's nice to be here and not worry about winning," Jade said.

Scientists do not know what causes the disease and there is no known cure. Jade is planning to go to college and serve a mission.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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