Virginia Woman, 22, Woke Up Paralyzed by Rare Disease While Teaching in Thailand

The Virginia family of a 22-year-old teacher are awaiting her return from Thailand, after she was suddenly paralyzed by a rare autoimmune disease. On December 21, Caroline Bradner began feeling weak and started to find it difficult to walk, her family wrote on a GoFundMe page initially set up to raise money to fly her home.

The next day, she awoke up in her apartment and was paralyzed. Doctors diagnosed her with a rare disease called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). The autoimmune disorder causes the immune system to attack the body's nerves, causing muscle weakness and paralysis.

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The disease, which is not contagious, has a number of causes including an infection by the common foodborne bacteria Campylobacter jejuni, the flu, and the Zika virus. One in 100,000 people are thought to be affected, and in the U.S., 3,000 to 6,000 people develop the condition each year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sufferers can be treated with a plasma exchange, and immunoglobulin therapy in which the body is dosed with antibodies.

Bradner's family wrote on GoFundMe that Caroline's condition is improving but she is "still paralyzed and it looks like this will be a long recovery, lasting from months to years." On Christmas eve, Bradner's mother flew out to Thailand where she has remained since.

Pierce Bradner, her sister, told WTVR: "She's scared because she can't move. But, she is really strong and really brave. She's a great person, the best sister." Caroline's father, Jim Bradner, told WTVR his daughter has regained some feeling in her fingers, and is able to move her shoulders.

After Caroline's insurance firm rejected her request to transport her home to the U.S., the family raised over $76,000 through GoFundMe to pay for her flights. However, the insurer later agreed to cover Caroline's travel costs. The money will now be used to pay for her medical bills and rehabilitation, her family said. Leftover money will be given to the charity GBS/CIDP Foundation International.

Caroline had recently graduated from University of Mississippi and saved money for her trip by waiting tables, Jim Bradner told WTVR. She flew out to Thailand to teach English, travel and "make a difference in this world," her family wrote on GoFundMe. She had been in the South East Asian country since October before falling ill.

paralysed thailand
The family of Caroline Bradner raised money for the 22-year-old on GoFundMe after she became paralysed in Thailand. GoFundMe