When you’re young, the first time you get seriously sick while away from home is always scary. I remember coming down with a nasty case of a the flu during my freshman year in college.
My bones began to ache, I got a bone-rattling fever, and my lungs burned so badly I could feel their aching outline within my chest. It was not a pleasant time.
Yet despite the difficulties of my illness, it was nothing compared to what 20-year-old Kara Dunn experienced. People reported that the University of Arizona physiology major began feeling poorly while vacationing in Spain with a friend.
Dunn knew something was wrong with her. In addition to the normal symptoms of illness, she began to experience an odd tingling in her hands and face.
She also had a hard time seeing and stated that she had diminished feeling in her teeth. However, she thought she’d simply come down with an ordinary cold and decided to sleep it off.
But when she woke up, she found herself in middle of a nightmare. Her cold had blossomed into facial paralysis.
— BarrowNeurological (@BarrowNeuro) July 3, 2018
Her friend Morgan, who she was traveling with, called Dunn’s family as she was admitted into the hospital. It was a good thing she did, too, because Spanish physicians had struggled to diagnose her malady.
Tucson News Now reported that doctors initially thought she was having a panic attack. Then they decided she had severe pneumonia.
They sedated her and intubated her (ie., stuck a breathing tube down her throat), yet the procedure seemed to make her worse.
“I was conscious during the entire thing, even when I was intubated, when I was on the ventilator,” Dunn said. “I was conscious through it all.”
According to Today, though, her family wasn’t willing to sit idle some 6,000 miles away. Dunn’s brother, Ryan, was a medical student at the Mayo Clinc, and when Spanish doctors failed to come up with a diagnosis, he spoke with a neurology professor in his program.
“We kind of came down to two diagnoses: multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré Syndrome,” he said. “Both [are] relatively rare.
“We decided to write a letter to the physicians in Spain. … We had Kara’s friend, Morgan, show it to the doctors, and three hours later we had a diagnosis.”
Though doctors now knew what Dunn was fighting, she wasn’t out of the proverbial woods yet. Her family had to raise funds to have her airlifted back home.
“It was the most terrifying two weeks of my life,” she said. “I was unable to speak or move, and the doctors weren’t sure I would survive.”
However, she hopes her ordeal will help raise awareness about the illness and comfort others. “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,” she said.
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