Austin music artist learning to walk again after being diagnosed with rare disorder

An Austin Air Force veteran and musician known for helping others is in need of a little help herself. About two weeks ago, Deanna Wheeler lost all feeling in her legs when she contracted a rare auto-immune disorder.

“Scariest thing in my life and my biggest fear is actually being paralyzed,” Wheeler said.  

That nightmare seemed like it could become a reality when she was admitted to St. David’s the day before Mother's Day. When Deanna got to the emergency room, she couldn't move her legs, and within hours it spread to her diaphragm. 

“My oxygen dropped and I was on breathing machines and I went to the ICU,” said Wheeler.  

The mother of three previously spent so much of her time supporting the Regroup Foundation, which helps members of the military transition back into civilian life. “I fell in love with their whole story, their whole mission statement, they just rang to me because it could've helped me too,” Wheeler said.  

Now, she is the one in need of some support. 

“It's hard because I'm the one that does the benefits,” she said. 

After meeting with a neurologist, Deanna learned more about what was going on. 

“I take all these tests and I wake up and they basically tell me I have Guillain-Barre,” said Wheeler. 

That’s an autoimmune disorder that attacks healthy nerves in the peripheral nervous system. 

“There is no cause and there is no cure,” Wheeler said.  

For some people, it does lead to paralysis.

For Deanna, it means learning to use a wheelchair instead of going on tour this summer. 

“It's hard, it's really hard, and it's actually really anxiety provoking,” said Wheeler.  

Whenever she feels overwhelmed, support pours in from all over the country. “Everybody's come to see me, everybody has just shown so much support and it's a lot of the music industry,” Deanna said.  

Thanks to physical therapy, she is slowly learning how to use her legs again. “It is motivating that I get to stand back up,” she said while using an A-frame machine during physical therapy Wednesday. 

Deanna knows it's going to be a long process.

Her doctors told her it will likely take 8 -12 months before she can walk again. 

“It's different.... it's humbling though in a way,” said Wheeler.  

She expects to spend three more weeks in the St David's Rehab hospital doing physical therapy before going home to her family, but Deanna’s determination to get back on her feet helps her push through the pain a little more each day. “As soon as I can do it, I will excel at it, and I will do it around the clock and nobody can stop me,” Wheeler said.  

There is a benefit for Deanna at Moontower Saloon on June 3 at 3 pm.

And another in Round Rock June 24th at the Tavern, Long Branch and Rockey's Piano.

There is also a fundraiser set up on GoFundMe.