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UA student stranded in Spain with rare autoimmune disease now recovering in Phoenix

Kara Dunn is walking with little assistance
Posted: 11:25 PM, Jul 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-04 05:32:19Z

A University of Arizona student who was diagnosed with a rare condition overseas is now recovering in Phoenix.

Kara Dunn was traveling in Spain with a friend last month when she started experiencing double vision, extreme pain and neurological symptoms.

She described the terrifying experience at a press conference at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix on Tuesday .

"I woke up, and once I opened my eyes I could no longer shut them. I had to blink my eyes with my hands. I couldn't raise my eyebrows, I couldn't smile. I could talk, but I couldn't feel anything in my mouth" -- Kara Dunn

Dunn, 20, was in the intensive care unit in Sevilla for two weeks, intubated and unable to move, while doctors worked to find a diagnosis. 

Dunn has Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease which typically causes paralysis. Most people recover, even those with severe cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in every 100,000 people are diagnosed with this condition, from a having slight weakness in the body to full paralysis.

In less than a month, Dunn's family raised $100,000 via Go Fund Me to fly her home for treatment. Her doctor at Barrow Neurological Institute, Christina Kwasnica, says she's made "remarkable" progress. She's walking with little assistance and Dr. Kwasnica anticipates she'll make a full recovery.

Dunn says as scary as the whole situation was, it's made clear her future plans.

"My goal is to be a physician and I know this entire experience will make me an even better physician one day," Dunn said.

She's preparing to leave the hospital and also hopes to return to U of A in August.