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Turning 40 is a big milestone. Many of us will plan a party, or a weekend getaway, or perhaps even sign up for a marathon – running 40-odd kilometres before hitting the big four-zero.

Running coach, primary school sports teacher and mum of two Jess Reynolds has decided to turn it up a notch. She will celebrate her last year in her 30’s by taking part in 40 sporting events in the 12 months leading up to her 40th birthday. 

The mammoth year-long effort will raise much-needed funds and awareness of Guillain Barre Syndrome Foundation of Australia. 

“From October 13th, 2018 until my 40th birthday on 12th October 2019, I am going to participate in 40 events with the aim of fundraising and lifting the profile of Guillain Barre Syndrome Foundation of Australia”, Jess said. 

Since October last year, she has taken part in events like the Augusta Adventure Race and the 3.6km-long Busselton Jetty Swim. 

In August, she’ll be joining thousands of others at the start line for the Chevron City to Surf for Activ in Perth . Incredibly, the City to Surf will be her 36th event for the year. 

“This year I am moving as much as I can to raise awareness of GBS, and hopefully some much-needed funds for the GBS Foundation to assist sufferers and their families,” she said. 

Raising Awareness for Guillain Barre Syndrome 

Guillain Barre Syndrome (pronounced Ghee-yan Bar-ray) is a rare neurological disorder that causes the body’s immune system to attack the peripheral nervous system. It causes rapid-onset muscle weakness and paralysis of the limbs.The weakness can affect muscles that control your breathing and can lead to complications that affect the sufferer’s blood pressure and/or heart rate. 

For Jess, a close family friend Chris McEncroe woke up on Christmas Eve in 2016 and wasn’t able to move his body. He was raced to hospital before being transferred to the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth via the Royal Flying Doctors Service. 

Upon arrival at the Fiona Stanley Hospital, Chris’ heart and lungs both failed. He was resuscitated, intubated and required a tracheostomy. He underwent days of testing before being diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, but the diagnosis was just the beginning. 

There is no known cure and the prognosis is uncertain for GBS sufferers.

In Chris’ case, he spent 133 days in ICU – making him the longest standing ICU patient at the Fiona Stanley Hospital. 

The road to recovery has been slow. Chris’ wife Chelsea and their three young daughters moved to Perth to be by Chris’ side throughout the ideal. They have now relocated back to the family home in Dunsborough, but Chris regularly travels to Perth for rehabilitation. He’s in a wheelchair with very limited movement, so the travel and the transition home has been difficult for everyone. 

“As a keen sportsperson and running coach I can’t imagine waking up one day and not being able to lace up my shoes and go for a run or jump on my bike. GBS does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone, at any age and at any time with no known cure,” says Jess.

“I’ve seen first hand how GBS has turned the McEncroes’ lives upside down and I wanted to do something that would help bring them some financial assistance and raise awareness of this destructive disorder.” 

The Guillain Barre Syndrome Foundation 

The Guillain Barre Syndrome Foundation of Australia is a registered not-for-profit. The Foundation relies heavily on fundraisers and volunteers, like Jess Reynolds, who have been somehow affected by GBS. This allows them to use every cent raised for their cause. 

I hope that my ‘40-B4-40 Project’ will assist the GBS Foundation of Australia to continue helping those suffering from GBS. With the added support of the sporting community I’m trying to help spread the word and make that difference.” 

Find out more about GBS by visiting the Guillain Barre Syndrome Foundation of Australia webpage. 

You can donate to the GBS Foundation here if you’ve been inspired by Jess and her tremendous efforts towards her 40-B4-40 challenge to date. Alternatively, join Jess at the start line for the 2019 Chevron City to Surf for Activ by signing up here.