Virginian paralyzed in Thailand from rare disease to come home

Virginian paralyzed in Thailand from rare disease; family trying to get her home

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A travel insurance company has agreed to allow a Henrico native to travel home following her diagnosis of a rare auto-immune disease while teaching in Thailand.

Caroline Bradner, 22, is currently hospitalized in Southeast Asia.

Caroline had originally traveled to Thailand for a marketing internship but soon fell in love with teaching English to young children.

"She thought that would help broaden herself and also give back to other people," said Jim Bradner, Caroline’s father.

But two months in to her six month stay the unexpected happened.

On Dec. 22, Caroline woke up in her apartment in Thailand unable to move, according to her sister.

"It's a punch in the gut," Bradner said.

A friend, also from the Richmond area, took Caroline to the hospital after she started exhibiting symptoms of weakness, abdominal pain and paralysis.

Doctors in Thailand diagnosed her with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare auto-immune disease that causes your body’s immune system to attack your nerves.

"With her it's basically paralyzed her from the shoulders down," Bradner said. "The problem is it affects everyone differently. You have sort of the same symptoms but it takes some people longer to recover than other people."

The family found out about Caroline’s situation when they were picking her sister up at the airport.

Caroline’s mother flew out Christmas Eve to help with her daughter’s recovery while the rest of the family focused on finding a way to get her home. But it hasn’t been easy.

“We put in a claim for an emergency evacuation to get back home, but the travel insurance has declined it,” Bradner said.

According to Bradner, Wednesday afternoon the travel insurance company called to “agree to allow” Caroline to travel home.

“We’re excited,” he said. “A weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”

But the family understands Caroline still has a long road ahead.

"Her spirit is one of a fighter and she really wants to push forward and knows there's something better on the other side," Bradner said.

Friends, family and strangers donated to a GoFundMe page, originally created to help pay for transportation. Now the $72,000 raised will be utilized for her medical costs and rehabilitation.

“Any additional funds will be donated to GBS/CIDP Foundation International,” the fundraising page states.

Senator Tim Kaine’s office is also in contact with the family to see how they can help.

“She tells me about the nurses visiting her,” Bradner said. “Her principal at the school she works with visiting her. The folks down there really care about Caroline and are trying to help her out.”

The former Freeman High School student has regained movement in her fingers, and her father said she’s ready to come back stronger than ever.

“She brings something special to this world… She knows she has a long road to travel in this journey, but she is fighting,” he added.

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