2013 Rare Disease Champion Finalists Chris Ferguson


Each of the seven finalists for the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion Award will have their story featured here. In order to vote for the next Rare Disease Champion, please visit our voting page here. The winner will be announced on February 1st.

Chris Ferguson

Chris Ferguson

College: United State Naval Academy

Rare disease connection: As a youngster from second through fifth grades, Ferguson suffered from a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The rare disease took away his ability to walk – Ferguson relied on a walker for a year –  and also affected his memory. Guillain-Barre Syndrome nearly took his life.

His Story: It was supposed to be a textbook childhood.

Navy’s Chris Ferguson was a typical 8-year-old – active and full of life. But super active doesn’t always mean super attentive.

It was not overly surprising for the 8-year-old to be late to the breakfast table. The problem was Chris says, he wasn’t able to walk, or move for that matter, out of his bed one morning. It all happened that quickly.

“My dad was very calm,” Chris recalls. “But I know they were worried.”

Ferguson’s parents rushed him to the hospital. Test after test was run but no one could figure out what was wrong. Chris says his parents were basically told he might die, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why.

A specialist from New York flew to the North Carolina hospital where Ferguson was admitted to help with the diagnosis.

He determined Chris suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the nervous system.  Guillain-Barré syndrome is very rare, affecting only 1 or 2 people per 100,000.

There is no cure and in Chris’ case, like most cases, the treatment wasn’t easy. Chris’ blood had to be separated from the plasma and then both the blood cells and plasma would be returned to the body.  Recovery was grueling.
“I had to re-learn everything,” Ferguson says. “I had to learn how to talk again and had to learn basic motor skills.”

It took more than a year for that to happen.  For two years, he had to use either a walker or wheelchair.  But Ferguson was determined to get back to being a typical kid.  That meant, for him, getting back to sports.

For Ferguson that meant playing basketball and football.

To see where Chris has come is remarkable.  He went from not knowing if he would walk again or even live past the age of 8 to now playing safety for the Navy Midshipmen. His story is truly inspiring.

“I’m so blessed to have this opportunity,” Chris said. “I’m thankful for every day.”

Chris says he’s matured a lot since joining the Academy and it’s his past that has helped him keep perspective about the future.

He often shares his story of resilience with his teammates and others.

Ferguson does have some lingering reminders of those rough couple of years. He can’t get a flu shot and he has to be careful about medications he may take.  But that’s OK, he says. He’s no worse for the wear.

“I will always keep pushing forward and stay positive and that’s what I tell others,” Ferguson said.

It’s the perfect attitude of someone who is willing and able to serve his country.  After Ferguson fulfills his duties on the field, he’s planning a career in either the Navy or Marine Corps.

Vote For The 2013 Rare Disease Champion Today!

18 thoughts on “2013 Rare Disease Champion Finalists Chris Ferguson

  1. I wanted to let you know your story is inspritional. My son was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome this past November. He is in kindergarten and 5 years old. He has been wrestling since he was 3 and had to sit out this year because of Guillain Barre. I am SO happy to know that there is hope that he will be able to function normally and be able to the things that he loved! We hope you win!!

  2. Reading your story, I find that you a are a strong and remarkable young man with nothing but God on your side! Continue to be Blessed and inspirational to others. Good luck Chris…International Programs Office (USNA) is rooting for you! R. JamesGray.

  3. this is my cousin..remember pushing him in that wheelchair now im watching him on tv..keep it up dawgs

  4. I hope you win!!! This story is inspiring and well deserved!! best of luck you make sooo many proud and happy!

  5. MANY BLESSINGS TO YOU CHRIS!

  6. Chris, we are so bless to have you in our lives and we thank God for his healing powers in your life. To also hear how God has blessed your life to be a testimony to other young people by letting them know that with God all things are possible with perserverance and hard work is a blessing. Keep God 1st and you will go futher than you could even imagine. We pray you win.

  7. I also had this disease back in 1984. It is a life changing experience. I hope this man wins to bring awareness to this horrible disease!

  8. I have CIDP, the chronic form of GBS and with 1 son in law a Naval Academy grad and a future son graduating this May, know what you went through to graduate! Well done Chris!

  9. i am also a 7 year survivor GBS. and have continued side affects. i would vote for Chris,and

  10. Chris, your story, your life, is such an inspiration. Thank you for Sharing. Thank you for Serving. I will be sharing your story of success with my broth-in-law Jeff. Jeff was diagnosed with GBS, with AIDP/AMSAN variants in April 2012. He is still in rehab in Frederick, MD and longs for the day he is able to walk and return to work. God’s blessing to you and to all GBS sufferers and their families. And big kudos to Dr. McArthur of Johns Hopkins Hospital!

  11. Hi. I was diagnosed with GB Syndrome in March 2012.Now I am recovering.Today, 25 Jan 13 I can ride bi-cycle somehow and can do my daily activity on my own.Though I ahve not regained full power in my limbs-but hope to be alright by another 2-3 months.

  12. Thank You all for the support it is truly a blessing to know that there are other people in the world that had the GB Syndrome and how supportive people are, Reading everyone’s comments makes me realize how blessed I am thank you again.

  13. Chris, I am 62 yrs old and had GBS in 2006. My heart goes out to you for the high goals you have set for your self. Knowing what It takes to get off life supports and to walk and get your motor skill back, alot of work and self endurence gets you back as much as you can to be (mostly) normal again. Congratulations on your career and keep your wonderful attitude.

  14. I am 18 years old and had GBS in 2009….I had to re-learn everything as well, and I will be playing college volleyball this coming fall. I know how hard it is to come back and I am so glad you bounced back and are also playing college sports. Congrats on your hard work! Def voting for you! Love hearing stories just like mine!

  15. Chris, my brother was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome when he was four in 1960. Weird thing is – remembers all of it. He finally recovered (it was a long hard slog then) and retired from the USAF after a long career. You are in our prayers and we want to thank you for high-lighting this rare disease to the world. Keep up the good works! Bless you.

  16. Each finalist is a model of courage and tenacity. My vote goes for Midshipman Ferguson.
    Go Navy!

  17. Guillain-Barre disease is what killed FDR, not Polio. God Bless all that suffer this affliction. Geoff Crane ’73

  18. I was also affected by GBS back on June 1, 1998. I have since recovered with the only exception of having no sweat glands left in my feet or hands. I am a karate instructor and went back to competing about 1 year after my bout. Stay positive and work hard!

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