Woman tackles autoimmune disorder with loved ones by her side

Courtney Runyon was filling her 30s with adventure when she noticed her body slowly shutting down. Within months she was paralyzed from the neck down. After intensive treatment and rehabilitation at UT Southwestern, Runyon regained much of what she lost and is now getting ready to hike 500 miles across Northern Spain.

Transcript

I think that some people should, they should wish they're in my shoes. Because of the great friends I have, and the support everyone's been giving me and how well I've been treated and loved.

[Announcer] How would you respond if you're body was slowly shutting down?

[Courtney] I was definitely trapped in my own body.

[Announcer] But Courtney Runyon did everything she could to get back to the life she once had. This native Texan and avid traveler, was relishing her early 30s.

[Courtney] I was living a healthy lifestyle and I was happy.

[Announcer] But in March of 2017, muscle weakness triggered a living nightmare.

My leg went numb from the knee down on my right leg. And that was when I said, "Okay, something's wrong.". Yeah, I just want to capture this moment because it's the moment before my MRI. Wish me luck.

[Announcer] In the coming months Runyon became paralyzed from the neck down.

I just started like crying. I was just like I don't want to be crippled. Like I don't want to be handicapped.

[Announcer] Runyon documented her quest to find answers on social media with the strong support system backing her.

[Courtney] I see the best side of people. My friends, family, and complete strangers every single day. But a mom, I'm not even on the camera right now.

[Mom] Well, I can't see. I can't.

You're doing great.

[Announcer] Nine months after the onset of symptoms, Runyon was given the life altering diagnosis.

The neurologist said, "Okay, your diagnosis is Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy.". And I was like, say what?

[Announcer] It's most commonly referred to C.I.D.P, a rare autoimmune disorder that destroys the myelin, a protective nerve coating.

It can cause arm and leg weakness. It can cause trouble using your hands, walking taking care of yourself.

Here's my big news, I'm going to go to Texas for a while to live with my parents.

[Announcer] After returning home to Dallas, Runyon began receiving care at the UTSouthwestern Medical Center's Peter O'Donnell Junior Brain Institute under Dr. Lauren Phillips, who specializes in treating neuromuscular disorders.

I felt like okay, finally someone hears me. Finally someone sees me. Finally I have someone on my side.

Courtney is definitely one of the most severely effected patients that I've seen with C.I.D.P given how severely weak and disabled she was.

[Announcer] After intensive treatment with immunotherapy and inpatient rehabilitation, in December of 2017, almost a year after the paralysis started, Runyon received a holiday miracle.

I started to, laying there on the couch, to be able to just move my foot just a little bit. And I was able to lift my arm just a little bit from my side.

[Announcer] Over the course of the next 18 months, Runyon slowly regained control of her body.

In the gym today, I stood up for the very first time. I'm literally having the unique opportunity to experience growing up all over again.

[Dr. Phillips] Her attitude has been really a key part of how well she's done 'cause she takes the bull by the horns and gets it done and really nothing slows her down.

[Announcer] She's made a 70% recovery and is working for continued improvement through ongoing therapy.

[Courtney] There's opportunities that you have in every stage or situation of life and I'm going to make it my mission to love this year just as much as I did last year. And just as much as I'll love next year and the year after that.

[Announcer] As for her next mission?

I'll be doing a 500 mile hike across Northern Spain. It'll be about 12 to 15 miles a day is what I'll walk.

[Announcer] It's a journey that'll take 40 days to finish. Runyon continues to put one foot in front of the other grateful to be doing so.

[Courtney] I get to get back out there in the world doing what I love.