"It is still challenging for me, but I can at least function," says The Bachelorette alumnus J.P. Rosenbaum, who was diagnosed a neurological disorder earlier this month.
It’s been over two weeks since J.P. Rosenbaum was first diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, and thankfully, the former Bachelorette winner’s symptoms are steadily improving.
“I am definitely progressing,” Rosenbaum, 42, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “But it’s more of a three-day progression cycle. I feel better than I did three days ago, but not necessarily better than yesterday. It is still challenging for me, but I can at least function.”
Rosenbaum, wed to former Bachelorette Ashley Hebert since 2012, woke up with tightness in his hands on Dec. 6, and by that evening, “I wasn’t walking right,” says Rosenbaum. “Then when I dropped my car keys and bent down to pick them up, I couldn’t get back up. I had to brace myself against the car to stand up.”
The next morning, when Rosenbaum discovered he couldn’t even take a shower or get dressed without help, he went to the hospital, where he eventually received his diagnosis. Prognoses for GBS range from tingling in limbs to complete paralysis.
“I was very scared,” says Rosenbaum, who has two children with Ashley: Fordham, 5 and Essex, 3. Miraculously, however, despite the rapid onset of symptoms, Rosenbaum’s condition plateaued, which meant the likelihood of the situation getting worse was slim.
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Nonetheless, Rosenbaum, who has persistent weakness in his hands, forearms, shoulders, triceps, calves and feet, had to contend with the frustrations of not being able to function the way he once had. In the hospital during physical therapy, “I couldn’t pick up a pencil or button buttons or tie shoes,” he says. “It’s the strangest sensation.”
Back at home two days later, Rosenbaum often felt helpless. “Ashley and I used to have a pretty decent balance with the kids,” he says. “I would make breakfasts and lunches and drop off at school two to three times a week. Now, I can’t even pick up my kids. I can’t bathe them, I can’t do anything. I can’t contribute at all. Watching Ashley do all of it is the hardest part.”
Luckily, “the kids have been awesome,” Rosenbaum says. “I was worried about how they would react. But we told them Daddy is sick and we have to be careful, but that I’m getting better and I’m getting stronger.”
For her part, “Ashley is a Superwoman,” Rosenbaum says. “She’s been amazing. She’s been supportive, and she does it all. It’s a lot, but I’ve reminded her that this is temporary.”
Slowly but surely, and thanks to help from friends and family as well as physical and occupational therapy, Rosenbaum is returning to his pre-diagnosis routine, with some amendments.
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“This morning I made pancakes for the kids, though I needed Ashley to flip them. And I’ve been able to pick up cartons of milk and twist off the top, which I couldn’t do a few days ago. I can even get up off the couch by myself.”
And ultimately, “I know I have challenges ahead,” Rosenbaum says. “But I’m optimistic that I will get stronger, and all of my abilities will come back.”