Student Profile: Kara Dunn on Returning to Class after Rare Neurological Condition

Oct. 9, 2019

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Kara Dunn
“What keeps me moving forward is the persistent thought that each challenge I'm facing is preparing me to help someone heal in the future. I am being taught lessons that I would not otherwise learn, so I hold onto the idea that the detour in my path is a gift, not a misfortune. I have been very lucky to have a solid support team through friends and family, and their positivity helps me to keep smiling.”

Just a few days into a summer vacation in Spain, Kara Dunn, an honors student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological syndrome in which the immune system attacks the nerves. Kara’s story and her family’s efforts to get her home made international headlines. She was medically airlifted to Phoenix, where she received treatment at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

While most people with Guillain-Barré syndrome fully recover, there can be lasting effects. Kara’s case is uniquely complicated.

“I was actually diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome at the same time as Guillain Barré Syndrome. Miller Fisher Syndrome is a sub-variant of Guillain Barré, but they usually occur individually and not together,” Kara said. “The overlap of the two conditions is what made my case even more complicated and what caused it to result in both full facial and full body paralysis with need for intubation.”

Thanks to emergency funding made available through both the College of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences and the Honors College, Kara is able to return to school part-time, with two online classes offered through the Nutritional Sciences Department. While she continues to work with her doctors in Phoenix, these classes will help keep her moving toward her goals.

“I am very interested in nutrigenomics, epigenetics, and precision wellness, and I plan to ultimately pursue an MD or MD/PhD and practice functional medicine,” said Kara. “My goal is to one day teach patients how their genes and environment affect their health.”

Read more about how her experience is shaping her goals and her studies in the full article.