For some people, one of the biggest fears you can have is falling ill while on vacation. Twenty-year-old student Kara Dunn can certainly relate to that, as she woke up paralyzed during a holiday in Spain. However, while doctors struggled to make a diagnosis, her brother Ryan played a key role in saving her life back home.
Kara was set to become a junior physiology student at the University of Arizona in the fall of 2018. Prior to that, though, she remained focused on something else, namely a summer trip to Europe with her best friend Morgan. However, this wasn’t her first adventure abroad.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to make trips through different programs, through different scholarships […],” Kara said on Megyn Kelly Today in October 2018. “I’ve gone to Asia, Europe and the Dominican Republic. Kind of all over.” With that in mind, the student then revealed her initial plans for the summer.
“We were going back to see all our friends in France,” Kara continued. “And we decided to go to Spain and Italy beforehand, just for fun.” On that note, both she and Morgan arrived on the Iberian Peninsula in June 2018, ready to enjoy their vacation. However, that all changed a few days later.
On the evening of June 4 while in Seville, Spain, Kara began feeling under the weather. She complained of suffering from double vision and couldn’t feel feel her teeth. The issues didn’t end there, though, as the 20-year-old’s hands and face started to tingle as well. But despite those symptoms, she decided to go to bed, in the hopes that she could sleep off the problem.
When she woke up, though, Kara quickly realized that she needed urgent help. “I knew that there was something seriously wrong [with me],” she recalled on Megyn Kelly Today. “My face was paralyzed, so I knew that I had to do something.” With that in mind, the student was rushed to the nearest hospital, leaving friend Morgan to contact her family.
However, while Kara was now under the care of hospital staff, the doctors struggled to identify what was wrong with her. As her condition worsened, they still couldn’t pinpoint a diagnosis, leaving her brother Ryan incredibly frustrated. A medical student himself, he decided to do some research on the potential issues plaguing his sister.
Due to his connections, Ryan was able to get in contact with one of his medical teachers, discussing what the problem could be. “We were at the two-day mark, and [Kara] still didn’t have a diagnosis,” Ryan told Megyn Kelly Today.
“I called my neurology professor at Mayo Clinic, and I asked him about Kara’s symptoms,” Ryan continued. “We discussed her case. That was kind of the turning point.” Indeed, while his sister remained in a serious condition thousands of miles away, the medical student finally made a breakthrough.
With Ryan’s mother Dawn now in Spain after traveling over from Arizona, he and his professor stumbled across some answers that had eluded Kara’s doctors. “We had a very interesting discussion,” he recalled. “[He said] ‘this isn’t really anything out of a textbook, and it wasn’t anything you would’ve learned.’”
From there, the duo pinpointed a couple of potential conditions. “We kind of came down to two possible diagnoses,” Ryan continued. “Multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré syndrome, both relatively rare. So we decided to write a letter to the physicians in Spain.”
As a result of the language barrier, though, Ryan needed to use some further intuition to pass their message on. Luckily enough, one of his roommates was bilingual, so he could translate the letter into Spanish. From there, the medical student then sent it to Morgan, who showed the doctors.
Within a few hours of reading Ryan’s letter, Kara’s doctors finally made a positive diagnosis. They confirmed that she was indeed suffering from Guillain-Barré syndrome. An incredibly rare disorder with no cure, this condition causes your immune system to damage the nerves in your body. However, if treated, you can recover from the effects.
Now that they knew what they were dealing with, Kara’s family looked to bring her back home to Arizona to continue her treatment. Initially, though, that proved somewhat of a challenge. “I was intubated, and so my […] doctor said I wasn’t leaving Spain unless I was on a flying intensive care unit (ICU),” the 20-year-old recalled on Megyn Kelly Today.
“So [my family] got me a flying ICU,” Kara added. However, for that to happen, her relatives needed to raise a large sum of money. With that in mind, one of her friends helped Ryan set up a GoFundMe page, hoping to reach the required goal to bring the student back home.
Since creating the page in June 2018, Kara’s family received over $100,000 in donations, surpassing the goal that was originally set out. With that money, they were able to fly her back to America so she could be with her loved ones.
As for Kara’s recovery, she spent some time at the Barrow Neurological Institute as a patient, before going back to her studies at the University of Arizona. On that note, the 20-year-old then spoke about how she felt now, touching upon her physical condition and the changes she’s needed to make.
“I’m walking, I have full feeling in my entire body,” Kara said during her interview on Megyn Kelly Today. “There are some times in lecture when I have to take a reduced schedule. So there are some times when my hands will start shaking too much to take notes, or I’m too tired to walk.”
When pressed if she would make a full recovery from her condition, Kara responded with an emphatic “Yes!” The 20-year-old was then asked if she would go back to Spain after what happened over the summer. “Honestly yes,” she said with a smile. “I want to.”
On that note, Kara reflected on everything that happened to her during that period. “I just learned so much about how to get through something like that,” she said on Megyn Kelly Today. “I just took it one step at a time, and didn’t think too far into the future. I think that’s truly what got me through it, and being positive.”