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Gabrielle Barr


1960 / Class of '03 / Pre-diagnosis kidney failure, Guillain-Barré / Died 12-20-2003

(Written by Lori Rothman-Terena,

This is a tribute to Gabrielle Barr who was a best friend to me and one of great courage. I feel compelled to write about Gabrielle and her condition in the hope that a cure is found in treating this dreadful disease.

Gabrielle was doing great in July, 2003 with no systems of any kind and had just got engaged. In August, 2003 she caught a cold that did not go away with antibiotics. Her symptoms worsened and she was taken to the Emergency hospital at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. When given a a series of tests, it revealed that Gabrielle had acute kidney failure. She was shocked. There were no signs of kidney infection or bladder infection, and here she is, left with less than 10% remaining function in her kidneys.

She was treated with Dialysis and went home. Once getting used to dialysis, she started to feel better and was placed on the national list for kidney donors. She saw her doctor and they could not find anything else wrong with her. Upon researching kidney failure in the internet, it appeared that kidney failure is usually an underlying reaction to another cause. Still the doctors could not find anything wrong. By August, 2003 they finally detected Multiple Myeloma in her blood but did not take immediate action. They had decided that she would first get used to the dialysis and place a shunt in her arm and then go to the hospital for a stem cell transplant to treat the MM. The surgery did not go as well as expected due to the fact that her veins had collapsed and so they continued Dialysis through her neck.

She went to Torrance memorial for the stem cell transplant and expressed to several doctors that she had been feeling a numbness in her legs. There was no indication that this was a correlation with MM and no further investigation into the numbness was done. She began to feel very weak in her legs and then her arms and was then no longer able to walk or to hold anything. Several tests were done and, finally they came up with Guillain-Barré syndrome. She would soon be paralyzed from the shoulders down from GBS and was then treated with a plasma wash for several cycles. She was also on chemotherapy and steroids which made her hallucinate. This was very upsetting and frightening for her each time this was administered.

It was discovered at this time that Gabrielle also had amyloidosis. She was transferred to Cedars Sinai in October, 2003 and placed immediately in ICU respiratory unit. With GBS, there is a possibility that the paralysis associated with it can cause your lungs to fail and in this respect they keep you close to the ventilator. Gabrielle's condition seemed to worsen as her breathing diminished and she was placed on the respirator. The doctors were convinced that they need to treat the GBS and place the MM on hold. The MM had apparently stabilized. A series of plasmapheresis was administered to help reverse the GBS but to no avail. The MM, GBS and Amyloidosis seemed to all be working against her autoimmune system. She was ready to give up.

I had called several doctors recommended to me through the MMRF and none of those doctors had a patient with both GBS and MM. There were no findings in the medical database to connect the two. We felt an urgent need another type of treatment for which Dr. Lim decided to give Gabrielle a cycle of Rituxan chemotherapy. By the end of November and early December, Gabrielle was weak and tired. There were no positive results coming from the Rituxan and the doctor had discussed what her options might be for further treatment, or to basically give up. She always decided to fight it out in the past and was adamant about beating MM and getting better and getting married, but by mid December, Gabrielle decided that she could not go on and that she could feel her body dying inside of her. She refused further treatment except for the ventilator. On December 20, 2003 at just 43 years of age, a great friend, mentor, sister, fiancée, and aunt passed away. We love her and will miss her dearly.


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