Thirteen years since being ravaged to the point of death by the same nerve disorder that has struck Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, former WA football star Paul Mifka is on the verge of getting back on the beat as a police officer.
Mifka, who will next year celebrate a 50th birthday milestone he thought impossible, has revealed to _The West Australian _extraordinary details of his fight with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which once reduced him to "100 per cent vegetable" status.
The West Perth great, who played one game for West Coast in the club's first season in 1987, said that soon after his 2001 diagnosis, doctors warned his family to prepare for the worst.
"I heard doctors saying I may not survive the night because my lungs had died," Mifka said.
Still lucid but unable to move any part of his body or talk to anyone, his eyelids were even taped together for him to sleep.
He first lost almost 20kg from his playing weight of 85kg, but later ballooned to 117kg as he gorged on Coca-Cola and chocolate in a search for energy sources during his long recovery.
But a more trim Mifka said he was recently cleared to resume operational duties as a senior constable in Perth. Now, only mastering the anxiety that comes with the disorder stands in the way of him getting back to a more normal working life.
"I'm still actually a bit nervous and my nerves still trigger off a bit," he said. "I've got to the level now where I can get back out on the road, but I'm just sort of working my way to the next level again so I can get back out there. I always enjoyed being out on the road because that's what you join the force for, so being desk-bound all these years has been terrible.
"A lot of it is psychological now . . . you do get psychological scars from it."
Mifka will today return to Joondalup Arena to join other teammates who were part of the first Falcons team to play at the ground 20 years ago.