By Sarah Francis
A student who was paralysed by a rare illness has shared the moving moment she learnt to walk and DANCE again.
Katrina Parra, 24, became sick with vomiting and severe pain in 2012 which gradually worsened and left her paralysed.
She was diagnosed with Acute Intermittent Porphyria the next year and had to relearn how to use her limbs and regain her voice.
She said: “Because of the paralysis I stopped college for two years. I had to learn to walk again.
“It didn’t only affect me but also all my family that were always by my side.
“The first year I couldn’t dance because I needed a wheelchair or walker, but then in the second year I danced, but I looked strange because I was not fully recovered, it was obvious I had a motor problem.
“Today I am the best dancer.”
The rare genetic disease causes a build-up of porphyrins which attack the nervous system.
She said: “I realised I was sick when I started to vomit and I had abdominal and leg pain.
“Then I suffered from a septicaemia and it took me to intensive care. The pain and vomiting lasted one month.
“Doctors could not find a diagnosis, so my body started paralysing to such an extent that I lost my voice.
“I got a gastrostomy to eat and needed help for everything.”
After a two month stay in hospital, Katrina underwent a porphyria exam in the US in 2013 and was officially diagnosed.
She said: “At first I was in another world, I did not know the gravity of what was happening.
“I thought it was an illness that was going to happen to me like a flu and it was not like that.
“Then it was very hard for me because I couldn’t express myself.
“I had bad moments where I cried and I felt bad but I was surrounded with many people supporting me and I never gave up hope.”
During an attack Katrina experiences searing pain in her abdomen, legs and back as well as vomiting, convulsions, anxiety and hallucinations.
She added: “It’s like when you’re feeling as if you’ve been poisoned.
“The first years I had attacks every month and each attack lasted around five days.
“It totally changed my life.
“Before, I didn’t have good nutrition, sometimes I skipped meals.
“I didn’t drink enough water, and didn’t eat enough protein and carbs.
“I consumed alcohol in parties and did not take good care of myself.
“Now I give more importance to life and see things differently.
“I have not had a porphyria crisis for two years, due to my good nutrition and a healthy life without bad habits.
“I always had good attitude with a desire to return to normal. I needed a lot of patience.”
Katrina was treated by a team of physiotherapists three times a day for a year, and had speech therapy to recover her voice.
She added: “Recovery was a slow process, at first I did not have any type of reaction to the movements, I did not have reflexes, and the muscles were very weak.
“But little by little I recovered the movements.
“Today, four years later, I only have physiotherapy once a week.”
Katrina shared her story on her page @somosporfiria in the hope of helping other sufferers.
She said: “My goal is to create a porphyria foundation.
“In fact I’m doing my thesis on that.
“Many people die of porphyria because of the difficult diagnosis and something has to be done about it.”