When Caroline Bradner started to feel weakness in her limbs on December 21, doctors first believed she was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). So the 22-year-old — who has been living and teaching English in Thailand — took some medicine and went home. But when the Indiana-native woke up the next morning completely unable to move, she asked a friend to call an ambulance.
At the hospital, Bradner learned what doctors say is the real cause of her paralysis: a rare autoimmune disease called Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS). Once she learned the diagnosis, Bradner’s mom rushed to buy a flight to Thailand. But now her family is fighting to bring them both back home
“[Caroline] will require a nurse and special seating on the airplane to make the trip home as well as future hospitalization and physical rehabilitation,” her sister Pierce wrote in a GoFundMe. “This fund is to make sure that she can get home and receive the best possible care.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the fund was over halfway to reaching its $100,000 goal. But as the Bradners work to bring back Caroline, what actually is Guillain Barré Syndrome — and why did it cause her to be unable to move? GBS, as it’s known, is rare disease in which the body’s immune system ultimately begins attacking its own nerves. It affects just one in 100,000 people in America per year.
According to the World Health Organization, the first symptoms of the disorder tends to be weakness in the legs, arms or face. “For some people, these symptoms can lead to paralysis of the legs, arms, or muscles in the face,” an information page on GBS from the WHO reads. “In 20–30 percent of people, the chest muscles are affected, making it hard to breathe.”
The Mayo Clinic says the precise cause of GBS remains unclear, but that the disorder often occurs following an infection of some kind — either bacterial or viral. The illness most commonly associated with GBS is campylobacter, a type of food poisoning that results from undercooked chicken. But GBS can also be triggered by more common illnesses such as influenza, Zika virus, Hepatitis A, B, C, and E and mycoplasma pneumonia. In extremely rare cases, the disorder can result from a surgery.
No matter the cause, patients with GBS have the best prognosis when the disorder is caught early — and can be offset by immunotherapy treatment. But WHO says that “most recover fully” from GBS, even in the “most severe cases.” Given that knowledge, it seems safe to say that Bradner will eventually make a full recovery. But in the meantime, her family is working tirelessly to get her back.
“Caroline’s journey to Thailand was an opportunity to teach english, to travel, and make a difference in this world,” her sister writes. “Please help us get Caroline home.”
Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Caroline’s family and will update if we hear back.
Don't overlook these signs:
10 strange skin problems that may signal a disease
10 strange skin problems that may signal a disease
You're breaking out like crazy
Adult acne is so common (here’s why—and how best to treat it), but when it’s a fairly new development, pay attention. Skin changes like acne can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that affects 10 million women worldwide. When a woman’s body makes excess “male” hormones called androgens, it’s often accompanied by an increase in acne. Your doctor may suspect PCOS if you have acne along with irregular periods or acne that flares up just before your period, says Dr. Reynolds.
You notice lots of skin tags popping up
A few of these skin growths here or there is normal, but numerous skin tags that begin popping up could indicate type 2 diabetes. They’re spurred on by insulin-like growth factor 1, a protein involved in diabetes that stimulates skin overgrowth, says Rachel Reynolds, MD, a dermatologist with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Other signs of type 2 include increased thirst, slow healing wounds, and increased hunger. Here are more silent symptoms of diabetes you might be missing.
You've developed a weird rash
Something benign like new laundry detergent or metal buttons on your pants can be behind a new rash, but so can tick bites. Five different types of tick diseases cause telltale skin rashes, from the bullseye of Lyme and STARI (southern tick-associated rash illness) to small pink spots dotting wrists, forearms, and ankles that are associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Watch out for such skin changes if you’ve been camping, hiking, or spending time outdoors in known tick areas. Find a tick attached to you? Here’s how to safely remove it.
You have a weird rash, Part II
Starting a new medication always comes with potential reactions. One serious problem: an allergy called “drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms” or DRESS syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition marked by an inflammation of the liver, heart, and lungs, says dermatologist Cindy Owen in a press release from the American Academy of Dermatology. Even more confusing: This rash can appear two to eight weeksafter starting the med. Watch out if you have a rash accompanied by fever or swelling of lymph nodes.
You're so, so itchy
If you have dry skin—especially in the winter months—you may bet used to feeling itchy. But when a good moisturizer provides no relief, it could be something more serious than dry skin. Itchiness can be caused by some cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, as well as liver disease and kidney failure. If itching is all over your body, is severe, comes out of nowhere, or is so bad you’re losing sleep because you’re so uncomfortable, talk to your doctor, says Dr. Reynolds. Itchiness with night sweats, fevers, and unexplained weight loss are other red flag symptoms, she says. For run of the mill itchy skin, try these home remedies.
Unless you’re relaxing in a sauna or living the tropics, this may be a sign of an overactive thyroid. In people who have hyperthyroidism, their metabolism is revved up. This can translate to being hot and flushed (particularly when no one else in the room is). Your doctor should question you about other symptoms that could signal thyroid dysfunction, like weight loss or difficulty sleeping. Here’s how to know when to get your thyroid levels checked.
Your lower legs are swollen and red
When someone is suffering from congestive heart failure, their weakened heart struggles to keep the blood moving against the pull of gravity. As a result, the blood can pool in your legs, explains Dr. High. Seeing deep lines after taking off your socks is another sign, he says. That said, congestive heart failure is most likely to affect the elderly; if you’re a young person and have sock lines, your socks just might be too small. (Sounds funny, but it’s true!) Catch the early signs of heart failure.
You have yellow bumps underneath your skin
When seen on joints, hands, feet, and glutes, yellow bumps may be fat buildup under the skin. Called xanthomas, these bumps are a sign that your cholesterol or other blood fats are too high; they can also indicate diabetes, pancreatitis, and even some cancers.
Think of the obvious first
Though skin problems can be a sign of a more serious illness, when saddled with dry skin or itchiness, don’t jump to a worst-case scenario, says Dr. High. If you’re itchy, first try a moisturizer. If you get hives, take an antihistamine or try a hydrocortisone cream. Then if the problem doesn’t clear up quickly, it may be time to see your doctor.