Danny Wuerffel, a former Heisman winner and quarterback for several NFL teams, revealed earlier this week that he is suffering from a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves.
It's called Guillain-Barré syndrome and can result in a creeping paralysis that first begins with weakness in the hands and feet and can then spread to the core of the body. Life-threatening complications can develop if the muscles controlling breathing are impacted or if the individual already has an immune-weakening complication.
Wuerffel said he noticed something was wrong after contracting a stomach bug; something doctors believe precedes symptoms of Guillain-Barré. "I didn’t recover well," Wuerffel said in an email. "I started losing feeling in my legs, and then while in Montgomery this week visiting our ministry partner, Bryan Kelly, I started losing feeling and strength in my hands and arms."
Caught early, most people can full recover within a year — though symptoms like numbness and fatigue can persist in some cases. Wuerffel says he's on a week-long treatment and expects to be back in form shortly.
“Fortunately, an early diagnosis identified the disease, permitting swift medical treatment,” writes Luder Whitlock, the board chair of Wuerffel’s charity, Desire Street Ministries. “Consequently, his GSB specialist expects a full recovery. Meanwhile, Danny has asked me to express his appreciation for the prayers, love and support he has received during this time.”
Wuerffel was a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints from 1997-1999 and also played for the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins before retiring in 2002. Before the NFL, he was the quarterback for the Florida Gators.