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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA Flinn Scholar paralyzed while abroad, needs help to come home

Courtesy Ryan Dunn

A few days into her trip to Spain, Kara Dunn, University of Arizona Honors College physiology major and Flinn Scholar, woke up paralyzed. 

Her brother, Ryan Dunn, wrote in a GoFundMe page that, after waking up June 5 “completely paralyzed in a place far from home,” Kara Dunn was rushed to a hospital and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder where a person’s body attacks their nerves. 

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but it’s often preceded by a respiratory infection or stomach flu.

“The onset of the disorder was very sudden,” Ryan Dunn wrote on June 9. “Just the night before, Kara started feeling ill and had tingling sensations in her hands and face. She decided to sleep it off but woke up the next morning unable to move. At the hospital, she was sedated and intubated for severe pneumonia, which further complicated her condition.”

Ryan Dunn wrote that he traveled to Spain to be with his sister while she was in the hospital, but as a medical student at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, he did not know how long he could stay in the country and wants to bring his sister home so she can recover.

“All we want is for Kara to be able to come home and get the best treatment available so she can regain her strength,” Ryan Dunn wrote. “However, the only way this is possible is if she is air evacuated to Arizona.”

In an email interview with Jasmine Demers, Daily Wildcat editor in chief, Ryan Dunn said that after further research, it may cost closer to $150,000 to transport Kara home, which is three times more than they originally expected.

After two days, the GoFundMe had raised nearly $40,000 of the $50,000 goal, from 673 people. The link can be found here

“If you could find it in your hearts, it would mean the world to us if you would be able to spare anything you can afford,” Ryan Dunn wrote. “If not, we completely understand. Please share her story with as many friends and family as possible and keep her in your thoughts and prayers.”

The donations range in size from $5 to $500, and the GoFundMe page had amassed 1,100 shares on Facebook by Tuesday afternoon. Over the weekend, Ryan Dunn shared an update on the page, saying his sister was starting to show positive signs of recovery. 

“From the bottom of our hearts, Thank You,” Ryan Dunn wrote. “Your support has made an unimaginable situation so much easier. Kara breathed without the ventilator for 2 hours today, which is so encouraging! We are on track to get her out of ICU very soon.”

In an email interview, Ryan Dunn also had a message from Kara for her supporters.

“Kara wants everyone to know that she loves them,” he wrote. “I’ve been telling her about comments, donations, and well wishes, and every time she cries when she hears how much people care.” 

Carly Stoltenberg, an adjunct professor at Rio Salado College, shared Ryan Dunn’s GoFundMe on her Facebook page, where she wrote about her own experiences with Guillian-Barre Syndrome.

“Like [mine], her illness came on suddenly, causing paralysis and the need to be on a ventilator. I know that all of you are familiar with what I went through just one year ago. It was terrifying for me and for my family and friends. The difference with Kara is that GBS showed up while she was in Spain. I cannot imagine how much harder it is for her and her family to be dealing with this while in a foreign country.”

Kara Dunn is heading into her junior year at the UA and is also involved in the UA Flying Samaritans, a campus club that is committed to helping undeserved people receive free medical attention and care, particularly in Mexico. As a physiology major, Kara is also particularly interested in researching autoimmune diseases. 


In a social media post on Wednesday morning, Ryan Dunn made the announcement that Kara Dunn would be transported via medical flight from Spain to Phoenix this weekend, so long as her condition continues to improve. He also mentioned that Kara’s travel insurance has agreed to pay for the flight in full.

“Kara’s medical bills will be very expensive,” he wrote. “Thank you so much for everything you have donated. We have discussed it, and Kara would like any donated funds that aren’t used for her treatment, if any, to be donated to research to find cures for autoimmune and neurological illnesses like Guillain-Barre Syndrome.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Kara’s GoFundMe page reached over $71,000 raised by 1,100 people in three days. 

Ryan Dunn also posted a video of Kara on Wednesday, where she thanked community members for their support.

“I’m doing so much better,” Karan Dunn said. “Thank you so, so much to everyone who’s making it possible for me to go home soon. I love you all.” 

Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter

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