When Caroline Bradner woke up on the morning of Dec. 22 in Thailand, she found herself paralyzed from the neck down.
Now, after a GoFundMe campaign by her family raised over $76,000, she will be heading home to Virginia following her stint teaching kids English in Thailand.
Bradner was diagnosed with Guillain Barré Syndrome, a rare disease that causes people’s immune system to attack their nerves and can cause paralysis lasting months or even years.
“Just the day before, she started feeling weak and it became hard for her to walk,” her sister, Pierce, wrote on GoFundMe. “What started as muscle weakness in her abdomen, worsened into paralysis over the course of two days.”
Pierce started the fundraiser after Caroline’s travel insurance provider refused to pay for the cost of her flight back, which would require medical assistance and special seating.
But after the fundraiser attracted attention on social media, the travel insurance provider said it would pay for the flights, according to Pierce. (She did not name the provider.)
The Bradner family said that the money raised would go toward Caroline’s rehabilitation and treatment in the U.S., and that any leftover money would be donated to GBS/CIDP Foundation International, which provides support for sufferers of the syndrome.
Guillain Barré Syndrome affects roughly one in 100,000 people each year. Approximately 7.5% of sufferers die, but treatment is possible even though the cause is unknown.
“Thank you for all of you who have reached out,” the fundraiser said. “We appreciate you all more than you know.”
Correction: January 4
The original version of this story misstated the number of people Guillain Barré Syndrome affects each year. It is one in 100,000, not one in 10,000. It also misstated the gender of Pierce Bradner. She is Caroline Bradner’s sister, not brother.