Pro basketball star climbs back to top after life-threatening illness

(Kristen Hampton | WBTV)
(Kristen Hampton | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Five years ago, Chris Wilson would have never imagined he'd be where he is today. He probably saw himself playing for the NBA at this point, a starter in every game.

The 24-year-old former Atlantic 10 Conference champion basketball star, probably never imagined he'd have a life-altering experience that would shatter his basketball dreams, but renew his passion for life.

After Wilson graduated from St. Joseph's University, he went to play pro basketball in Germany, hoping to come back to the United States as an NBA pick. But two weeks into his overseas career, he slipped two disks in his back. Everything went downhill from there.

"I wasn't even really thinking about basketball at that point, I just wanted to live and be OK," Wilson said.

Wilson had surgery after one of those slipped disks actually ruptured. The surgery was a success, but after a week of recovery he started losing the feeling in his legs.

Doctors eventually discovered he had Gullaine-Barre Syndrome. The disease caused Wilson's immune system to attack his nerves. He struggled to walk and sometimes, to even breathe.

He went through a trying time mentally, but his will to live won the fight and he decided to fight to get better.

"Sometimes you don't really find out how strong or how tough you can be until you have to be it," Wilson said.

After a successful treatment, Wilson started to recover. After months of rehab and physical therapy, he came back to the United States.

He is mostly recovered from his ordeal with Gullaine-Barre, but his perspective on life has shifted his focus from basketball, to helping other people.

"It can be hard sometimes, but now inside, I know that I can push through anything," Wilson said.

He's now a trainer at Burn Boot Camp in Charlotte. He's focused on helping other people see that they can overcome any odds, and face any physical challenge as long as their attitude is positive.

"We're only here once," Wilson said, "I don't think you get very far by just accepting your situation."

From a debilitating illness to working his body back into almost perfect physical health, Wilson hopes his story will help inspire others to face their obstacles head-on and overcome them.

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