Ian Palmer with his therapist Clare

Ian Palmer with his therapist Clare. (Credit: South West News Service)

PRESTON, United Kingdom — A patient who was left almost completely paralyzed from a rare disease has been cured — after listening to The Carpenters each evening. Ian Palmer, 71, says he’s on top of the world after listening to the band as part of mindfulness techniques to overcome near total paralysis of his body.

Palmer was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome in June 2022, forcing him to spend seven months in the hospital where he was unable to walk or speak properly. The rare condition develops when a person’s own immune system attacks their body’s nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.

However, when doctors transferred the patient to Sue Ryder Neurological Care Center, a state-of-the-art care unit in the United Kingdom, clinicians taught him to sing using revolutionary music therapy. His therapist, Clare, also taught him mindfulness techniques using his favorite records. As part of his recovery, he switches on The Carpenters each night.

Though the “typical northern man” Ian admitted his skepticism at first, he can now walk nearly two miles a day and chat with his family after the exercises “opened up” his brain.

“I was skeptical at first, but it really worked. She asked me to do it before bed, and now I put The Carpenters on my Alexa every night,” Palmer says. according to a statement from South West News Service.

“One of my goals was to walk through my front door, and I’m now walking 3k a day. Improving my voice wasn’t on my list of goals because I found it embarrassing. I learned that music is very unlike other therapies, as it opens up all of the brain. There’s been such a positive impact – unless my family are telling fibs, they can understand me now.”

Palmer has dealt with this condition for decades

Ian initially contracted Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) when he was 21. The condition, which affects the nervous system, returned 50 years later. Specifically, he contracted the acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) variant of the disease, which left him almost completely paralyzed and bed bound last June.

“I was in intensive care, being suctioned 24 hours a day, as I couldn’t swallow, and this was leading to choking problems, and speech issues,” Palmer says, according to SWNS. “I had a nasogastric tube fitted for over four months.”

“I start at the top and works down, which confused the doctors for a while! Standard GBS starts at the feet and works up evenly. [It] selectively targets the motor nerve cells. You have to wait for them to regenerate – which in your 70s is quite worrying!”

Ian’s speech was affected by the syndrome, as it caused damage to his larynx, a tube that lets air pass through the back of your throat. When he was referred to the Sue Ryder Neurological Care Center, however, he started on a course of music therapy with his specialist.

“I’ve never been very musical, so when Sue Ryder first suggested music therapy I said, ‘What good is that going to do?’” the 71-year-old continues. “I’m a typical Northern man, and I thought ‘What’s a girl with a guitar going to do for me? Get me to the gym.’ But Clare sat me down and explained the process. She asked me to sing a long note uninterrupted.”

“When I first tried it was very staccato. Clare told me I needed to call on the diaphragm to assist. I said, ‘I don’t even know where that is!’ But she educated me about how to breathe. By calling on the diaphragm, you’re training the brain so that it can use other muscles too. It learns the pathways and reopens them,” the patient adds.

The 71-year-old is now out of the hospital

Clare also got Ian to practice mindfulness techniques, with some assistance from his favorite records.

“She wanted something I could relax to, and being of a certain age, The Carpenters was my choice,” Palmer explains.

“She told me to push away the thoughts, and just focus on the music. We’ve recorded the exercises we do together on my tablet, with Clare playing the guitar and singing. Now when I go home, I can take my phone and headphones and go for a walk and do my vocal exercises, which will help so much.”

Ian, who has since been discharged from the clinic, says he was amazed at the difference music therapy had made to his experience.

“My mum couldn’t understand me when she came to visit, and that made it become more of an issue in my mind. But now I’m confident that the music therapy I’ve received has more than dealt with it, and my voice has been able to join the rest of my body in recovering.”

South West News Service writer Douglas Whitbread contributed to this report.

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