PHOENIX (KSAZ) - She is just 20 years old, but University of Arizona student Kara Dunn was unexpectedly diagnosed with a rare brain condition while on vacation in Spain earlier this month.
Now, just a few weeks later, she is close to making a full recovery, after being treated at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. For the first time, Dunn is speaking out about her near death experience, as well as her incredible recovery.
Looking at Dunn now, it's hard to believe she was in a medically induced coma, on a ventilator and using a feeding tube, just a few weeks ago. She is now walking and talking and eating all on her own.
"Typically I'm the kind of person who when my mom says you need to go to the hospital, I say, 'no, I don't, I'm fine,'" said Kara. She said, however, she knew something was wrong just days into her vacation in Spain.
Kara and her friend quickly went to the hospital, but the biggest issue was the language barrier.
"I would be trying to tell them 'I could not breathe', and they would say 'I don't understand you' and walk away," said Kara.
Her brother Ryan said days went by, and Kara's condition got worse. She even became paralyzed, but still, no diagnosis.
"She was battling," said Ryan. "Just every breath was a complete struggle."
That's when Ryan said he took matters into his own hands. He approached his friends, colleagues and professors for help, aiding the doctors in Spain to diagnose her with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological condition that causes the body's immune system to attack the nerves.
"Being a medical student, I've been in ICUs and nothing prepares you for seeing a family member on a ventilator, especially someone who's so strong," said Ryan.
That strength may have saved her, according to Kara doctor -- Christina Kwasnica.
"They can have the fight in them, but that tuckers out after a while," said Dr. Kwasnica. "This kid is very persistent."
"So being on the other side, being on a ventilator and being in critical condition, has helped me to come from a patient's perspective," said Kara.
Kara also happens to be a pre-med student who dreams of becoming a doctor.
"When I become a physician, I will know how to treat people and how not to treat people," said Kara.
Kara also says the experience has made a profound impact.
"While I was there, I was just thinking about what I'm going to do differently in the future because of this experience," said Kara.
For others who may be struggling -- Kara's message is simple.
"The biggest thing that helped me get through it was staying positive," said Kara.
Kara and her family say they're able to pay for all medical expenses, thanks to the generous donations made through their GoFundMe page, and they want to thank the community. Kara is expected to be discharged in a week, but will undergo more treatment several times a week.
Kara's goal now is to be well enough to go back to school this August.
Guillain-Barre Syndrome information by the National Institutes of Health
Guillain-Barre Syndrome information by the Mayo Clinic