Rare disease brings LDS missionary home early; Treatment is helping him prepare to return to England


Elder Cottrell had only been proselyting on the streets of Leeds, England, for a few weeks when he noticed a tingling feeling in his hands and feet. His limbs grew progressively worse over the next few days, eventually landing him in the hospital. By the time doctors had determined what was wrong — a rare disorder called Guillain-barré syndrome — he could barely move on his own. His doctors decided to send him home to Utah for recovery.

“When we saw him at the airport we could barely recognize him,” said Joey’s mother Kim Cottrell. “My daughter had to point him out to me. He had lost so much weight. I thought he’d only been sick a little while, so I was surprised at how fast he’d deteriorated. But we tried to hide the tears and put a happy face on things.”

Joey was admitted to the Neuro Specialty Rehabilitation Unit at Intermountain Medical Center to begin his recovery. The unit was recently awarded a three-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International, indicating the facility’s outstanding care for patients recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, serious trauma, and of course debilitating illnesses like Joey’s.

In order to earn this accreditation, the unit underwent a rigorous peer review process and an on-site visit by a team of surveyors.  This is the seventh time the unit has achieved this honor.

The Neuro Rehab program first opened in 1989, and many of the same employees have been with the program ever since. “I think that’s really the secret to our success,” said Brad Zollinger, Director of Rehab Services at Intermountain Medical Center. “We have a lot of people here who are very good at what they do and care deeply about the patients we’re helping. They love what they do, and it shows.”

The Cottrell family couldn’t agree more. “The staff here was so wonderful, so sweet,” Kim said. “They worked so hard with Joey. Every day he could do a little bit more, he was a little bit stronger and I just couldn’t believe it. It was amazing to watch. I was just so pleased with everything.”

Joey spent about two months in the Neuro Rehab unit undergoing daily therapy and is now continuing his recovery at home. He still struggles a bit with weakness and balance, but has made a remarkable recovery and recently passed his driver’s license test. He hopes to be fully recovered and ready to return to his mission by early February.

Joey's story was picked up by news organizations in Salt Lake City and a few of the stories are listed below.