Man struck down by deadly auto-immune disease after dream Bali holiday

British real estate agent had just started the life he had always hoped for when he fell ill

Lydia Patrick
Monday 18 September 2023 04:09 BST

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A man has been left paralysed from the face down after contracting a rare auto-immune disease after returning from a dream holiday in Bali.

Real estate agent, Tom Pegg, 23, who is originally from Cheshire, developed an upset stomach – a common condition for travellers returning from the island – upon returning to his Dubai home in June.

Over the next five days, his symptoms worsened and his eye started to swell, followed by his throat. He went to hospital where doctors suspected he had suffered an allergic reaction and gave him an antihistamine injection.

But two days later, his best friend sought emergency care as both his eyes swelled shut, he struggled to breathe and couldn’t talk.

He returned to Al Qaassimi Hospital where he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre, a rare disease that causes the body to attack itself and shut down.

The family raised over £100,000 so Tom could return to the UK to be treated

His sister Hollie Pegg, 28, a beauty therapist, also from Cheshire, said: “It has been really scary, I had never heard of the disease in my life. My brother is a very charismatic, charming, laid-back guy.

“He’s gone from being a fit, healthy, fun-loving guy to being frail – he looks like a little boy.

“It’s such a horrendous disease that happens so quickly and out of the blue. It’s put my brother’s life on hold.”

She said her brother has a severe case of the disorder which has led him to be paralysed from the face down. He is learning to walk again, but it is not yet known how long this will take.

Guillain-Barre usually develops after an infection with the immune system attacking the body’s nervous system rather than the germs that have entered the body.

According to the NHS website, most people recover within a year but one in five patients will face long-term problems and it can be deadly.

Mr Pegg was put into an induced coma for five days while his family father Adam Pegg, 56, and sister flew out to be by his side. Their mother Julia Royle, 56, was unable to join them as she is battling stage three breast cancer and is unable to fly.

The family has now raised over £100k to fly Mr Pegg home to be treated at the University of North Staffordshire Hospital.

Julia, who is battling cancer, was reunited with her son when he returned to the UK

Ms Pegg added: “Having Tom home is a great distraction for my mum, she is so relieved and is seeing him every day.”

Mr Pegg is slowly recuperating as he starts the lengthy process of learning to walk and talk again. Nobody knows how long his recovery will take – so far, he has been in hospital for around nine weeks.

Ms Pegg said he had also reacted positively to plasma exchange treatment – a procedure that sees blood filtered to remove harmful antibodies attacking the nerves – and his limbs are working again. He has also regained the use of his eyes after temporarily losing his sight.

Mr Pegg moved out to Dubai from Cheshire in January and had just embarked on his dream life in the sun. His sister said his prognosis is not yet known but her Mr Pegg is determined to get back on his feet.

She added: “He’s managing to get out of bed for short periods of time but he’s still very weak and on oxygen.

“He has a tracheotomy in his throat so he is unable to swallow and speak, and he can’t breathe through his mouth or nose.

Hollie is hopeful her brother will return to his ‘cheeky chappy’ self

“He is fully aware of what’s going on and he still has his sense of humour – he can now see so can type on his phone to talk to his friends but he can’t move his face.

“We have no idea how long this is going to take so we are taking baby steps.

“He is the strongest, most determined person I have ever met.”

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