Triple Brownlow medallist Ian Stewart, still recovering two years after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, says it is "very doubtful" Alastair Clarkson will return to coaching Hawthorn this season.
Clarkson is in hospital with the serious auto-immune condition, a form of nerve inflammation affecting the spinal cord, and will not coach the Hawks against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.
Ian Stewart describes Guillain-Barre experience
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Ian Stewart describes Guillain-Barre experience
Left completely paralysed by Guillain-Barre syndrome, Ian Stewart's recovery was slow and "pretty rugged", and the former star footballer says he's "still not right" 23 months later.
Stewart, who has yet to fully recover from GBS, opened up about his battle, while Carlton coach Mick Malthouse has detailed his father's fight with the condition.
Stewart, a St Kilda and Richmond great who claimed football's top individual honour in 1965, '66 and '71, said he did not know the finer details of Clarkson's health, but his own battle had seen him paralysed from the neck down for several months.
"I spent five months in hospital in total. No movement and it was slow recovery after that," he said.
Stewart said he had not suffered from any symptoms, but fell over in his bathroom one morning after going to the gymnasium.
With his wife overseas and living alone, Stewart was forced to use his nose to ring for an ambulance.
Stewart said he was so frightened about his condition that he later rang his son and daughter "to say my farewells (but) I am a bit of a prima donna".
Speaking on SEN, Stewart said he was given blood transfusions and "for the first month I didn't really know where I was".
"You are sleeping a lot, you are medicated, no strength of course because you can't move any part of your body."
Stewart said he regularly asked for a time-frame of recovery, but doctors maintained it would take about two years.
As a former AFL-VFL coach himself with South Melbourne and Carlton, Stewart said he did not expect Clarkson to return to coaching this year.
"I haven't got a PhD in Guillain-Barre, I don't know how serious it is in his (Clarkson's) case, but I would be very doubtful, very doubtful, very doubtful (he will coach again this year)," he said.
Stewart said he started to feel some movement in a finger after a month in hospital and still has three rehabilitation sessions per week. He said recovery from what was a "savage illness" had been slow progress.
"I can't pre-empt what degree Alastair is going to have recovering. I just don't know," he said.
Hawks chief executive Stuart Fox says the club has been given confidence that Clarkson will make a full recovery but this recovery period was "open-ended".
Clarkson is expected to remain in hospital for at least the next week. The Hawks are initially preparing to be without Clarkson for three weeks, with assistant coach Brendon
Bolton stepping up into the senior role.
Malthouse has detailed his father's fight with GBS. The veteran Blues coach was only 12 and living in Ballarat when his father collapsed 48 years ago.
"He was paralysed in an iron lung for the best part of many, many months, put it that way. (He) never recovered, my father. I have seen people since then recover because it is detected much earlier, they know more about the disease, they have drugs that do help," Malthouse said on Adelaide radio.
"It changed my life. My father did it very hard as a kid. He was abandoned at birth and abandoned again when he was about 13. He did it pretty tough. All he wanted to do was give us a better life. At 12, it looked like he was going to and then unfortunately ... he died seven or eight years ago from cancer, but he never got back anywhere near what he was.
"He went from an iron lung to getting driven back to Ballarat in the back of a station wagon thanks to some fantastic people who lived in the neighbourhood and out in country Victoria.
"Then he got back to hospital. He was in a wheelchair for many, many months ... He couldn't use his ankles right, he never put weight on his legs so he was always freezing cold, the legs were skinny - it is very vivid.
"I have known of several people ... having the disease, with modern technology, modern drugs, and a very early call on it, they get back very quickly and they recover. Graeme Wright is a classical case."
Wright is the Hawks' recruiting manager who was diagnosed with the condition as a Collingwood player in 1993. He took three months to recover.