“I was unable to speak or move, and the doctors weren’t sure I would survive," recalls Kara Dunn

By Caitlin Keating
July 06, 2018 11:54 AM

A 20-year-old college student is speaking out just one month after contracting a rare autoimmune disease on June 5 that left her paralyzed three days into her Spain vacation.

Kara Dunn, who studies physiology at the University of Arizona, was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Tucson News Now reported at the time.

The condition causes the body’s immune system to attack the nerves, and begins with weakness and tingling in the extremities, according to the Mayo Clinic. The syndrome’s cause is unknown, however, it often follows an infectious illness.

During a press conference at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday — where Dunn was medically airlifted to on June 15 — she spoke out for the first time since news of her condition spread.

“It was the most terrifying two weeks of my life,” said Dunn, who had been traveling across Spain with a friend when she fell ill on June 3. “I was unable to speak or move, and the doctors weren’t sure I would survive.”

The paralysis spread and by the time she arrived at the closest hospital she couldn’t move her arms, hands, legs and feet. The situation turned dire when Dunn’s respiratory system began to fail and she developed pneumonia.

According to the Arizona Republic, Dunn felt herself being intubated and when she heard doctors say that she might have Guillain-Barré Syndrome, “my heart sunk.”

That’s because Dunn knew what the rare syndrome was. While working as a medical scribe in Tucson, Arizona, Dunn knew of a patient who had the condition and was given a grim prognosis, the Republic reported.

“I laid there. Paralyzed. Unable to talk and thinking that I would never be able to walk again,” she said, according to the news outlet.

The two weeks she was hospitalized in Spain, Dunn said, were categorized by varying degrees of care. According to the Republic, she said, “I am just one person and if I had to go through two weeks of a living nightmare to hopefully impact the lives of many, then for them, it was all worth it.”

Dunn’s brother and mother immediately flew to be by her side and created a GoFundMe page at the time to help get her home.

“We wanted to bring Kara home as soon as possible, but we first needed to make sure she would be transferred to the hospital most experienced in treating neurological conditions,” her brother, Ryan Dunn, said at the press conference, according to the hospital’s release. “We contacted Barrow, and they helped us make the arrangements for her to receive care at the renowned institute.”

After Dunn arrived at the hospital, she began intensive neuro-rehabilitation and soon after regained movement, Barrow Neurological Institute said. Later this week, she will be discharged from the hospital.

“Kara is having an amazing recovery,” said Dr. Kwasnica, who is the medical director of the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center. “I expect her to make a full recovery but she will have to continue working hard to be ready for school this fall.”

Dunn said she “will never be able to thank everyone adequately for the love and support they have shown me throughout this experience.”

She’s “incredibly appreciative” for the medical team who “got me back on my feet and helped me make a relatively quick recovery.”

“I’m also extremely thankful for my family who was by my side and helped me to remain positive,” she added. “The support from the public has been overwhelming and wonderful.”