WHEN Ian Stewart was struck down with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2012, he thought he was going to die.

Paralysed from the neck down, the triple Brownlow medallist contacted his son and daughter to say his final goodbyes.

Now, the same auto immune disorder has struck Alastair Clarkson, and Stewart will be gobsmacked if the Hawthorn coach is able to return to his post this year.

Clarkson has been relieved of his duties for an indefinite period while he receives treatment for a condition that affects the nerves around the spinal cord.

In the meantime, stoppage coach Brendon Bolton will take over Clarkson's role.

At best, Clarkson will return within the next month, but Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold says the coach won't be rushed back.

But Stewart, who is still yet to fully recover 23 months after being diagnosed, believes Clarkson will find it tough to coach again this year.

"I was completely paralysed for two or three months," Stewart told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

"I couldn't move any finger, toe or muscle. Recovery was rugged.

"You slowly start to move a finger, (then) a hand. That takes days and months.

"You can't walk or sit up, so you start in a sling, then a wheelchair, then crutches.

"Then you start walking by yourself for 100 metres. You get very exhausted.

"There was a lot of medicine and a hell of a lot of rehab."

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse said his father was never the same after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said he was concerned for Clarkson's welfare and wished him a speedy recovery

"Knowing Alastair, his character will shine through and he'll work his way through it, and we'll see him coaching sooner rather than later," Lyon said.