Caroline Bradner traveled nearly 9,000 miles to "teach English, to travel, and make a difference in this world." Now the family of the 22-year-old Virginian is trying to get her home after she was suddenly stricken by a rare disorder that left her paralyzed from the neck down. The New York Daily News reports the University of Mississippi grad, who went to Thailand in October via the XploreAsia program, fell ill in her apartment on Dec. 22, weak and unable to move. A friend got Bradner to a hospital, where blood tests led to a diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which a person's immune system attacks nerve cells, leading to muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Although most people with GBS make a full recovery, recuperation can take weeks, months, or even years, per the Mayo Clinic, and so Bradner's family is desperate to get her home to Henrico.
Her mother flew to Thailand to be with her, and Bradner's family set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money to get her home after their travel insurance company at first denied their request for funds to pay for the 26-hour flight—she can't just hop on any old commercial flight, requiring her mom and a nurse to accompany her. But the insurance company had a change of heart and will now bear that cost, so the $76,000 raised will go toward Bradner's medical and rehab bills. In the meantime, Bradner's dad tells CBS 6 that his "tenacious" daughter has since started to feel some tingling in her fingers and can now move her shoulders. "She's scared because she can't move," her older sister says. "But she is really strong and really brave." (Is there a tie between the Zika virus and GBS?)