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‘It could take years’ College grad teaching English in Thailand struck by rare auto-immune disease

Caroline Bradner
Pictured, University of Mississippi graduate, Caroline Bradner.
Caroline Bradner
Pictured, University of Mississippi graduate, Caroline Bradner.

Caroline Bradner, college grad, 22, teaching in Thailand is paralyzed by rare auto-immune disease as her Virginia family desperately tries to raise money to fly her home.

A 22-year-old University of Mississippi graduate teaching English in Thailand has been left paralyzed and unable to move by a rare illness  – with the woman’s family now frantically seeking to bring her home. 

Caroline Bradner, who earned a marketing degree from Ole Miss, moved to Thailand in October and made her home in Surat Thani, a small town eight hours from Bangkok, WTVR reported.

Days before Christmas, Bradner woke up and couldn’t move. A friend in the Xplore Asia program drove her to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The rare disorder which affects 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.

As per newsweek: ‘The disease, which is not contagious, has a number of causes including an infection by the common foodborne bacteria Campylobacter jejuni, the flu, and the Zika virus. One in 100,000 people are thought to be affected, and in the U.S., 3,000 to 6,000 people develop the condition each year, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sufferers can be treated with a plasma exchange, and immunoglobulin therapy in which the body is dosed with antibodies.’

‘Your stomach drops and your world turns upside down,’ her dad, Jim Bradner, of Henrico, Virginia, told via WRIC.

Bradner said he was very grateful to the young woman who stayed by his daughter’s side during her ordeal until her mother flew to Thailand to be with her.

‘We see improvements every day,’ the father said. ‘They may be small improvements.’

In the past few days, Bradner has been able to move her shoulders and has felt tingling in her fingers, her father said. She also has begun physical therapy.

As she shows signs of improvement, the family is trying to get her back home after their insurance company denied an emergency claim to put her on a flight.

‘We’re trying to get quotes on what it’s going to cost to bring Caroline home on a stretcher flight,’ Caroline’s father said.

The Bradners are now working with HCC Medical Insurance Services to fly her back.

Caroline Bradner
Caroline Bradner via GoFundme.

Caroline Bradner recovery could take years:

Caroline’s sister Pierce has since created a GoFundMe page called ‘Help Bring My Sister with Paralysis Back to U.S.’ To date, $76,000 has been raised.

‘She’s scared because she can’t move. But, she is really strong and really brave. She’s a great person, the best sister,’ Pierce said.

Told Caroline’s father, It’s very humbling to know that people care. It could be anybody’s daughter. It could be anybody’s child. And they all want the same thing. They want them to be safe. They want them to come home. They want them to get better’. 

‘Her being in Thailand has totally changed her outlook on life,’ the father added. ‘She says the people there are incredible, always happy. I think she wants to live like that. She has a great positive attitude. She wants to get home. So she’s trying to do anything physical, physical therapy she can do to get home.’

Lori Horton, a nurse and close friend of the Bradner family, said she assured them that the paralysis does reverse itself — but the recovery could take months or even years.

‘The key to healing has a psychological component that you can’t replace by being so far away. This is very stressful for Mom and Caroline to be so far away,’ Horton told WTVR.

‘People have been generous and I’m thankful. I want continued prayers and thoughts. We do want financial donations because we need to get Caroline home. She needs to get well.’

Caroline had recently graduated from University of Mississippi and saved money for her trip by waiting tables. She flew out to Thailand to teach English, travel and ‘make a difference in this world,’ her family wrote on GoFundMe.

Caroline Bradner
Pictured, Caroline Bradner with her sister, Pierce and her parents.