Luci Baines Johnson, the youngest daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson, is being treated at the Mayo Clinic for what doctors suspect is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nervous system, her personal physician said Saturday.
Initially, Johnson was admitted to a hospital in Austin on Wednesday after experiencing "extreme weakness" in her arms and legs, Youman said.
He said Johnson had a mild viral illness preceding this, a sore throat and hoarseness that probably was related because "in the vast majority of cases" the disorder follows a viral illness.
"She had been in excellent health prior to that, with no medical issue of this type," said Youman, speaking by phone outside her hospital room, which was packed with family. "It was sudden onset."
Youman said he and other doctors suspect Guillain-Barre syndrome, which affects the nerves that control movement and can cause paralysis.
After running extensive tests at the Texas hospital earlier in the week, Youman said doctors decided it best to move her.
The Johnson family has had a long association with the Mayo Clinic. President Johnson was on the hospital's board for a number of years, he and his wife got annual exams there and one of Lady Bird Johnson's closest childhood friends was married to a Mayo clinic physician, Youman said.
Testing continues, and Luci Baines Johnson is being closely watched and undergoing intravenous gamma globulin treatment. Her doctor said that may blunt her body's aberrant immune response to the virus that is causing the nerve damage.
Family spokesman Tom Johnson, who is not related to Luci Johnson, said her husband, Ian Turpin; her four children, and her sister, Lynda Johnson Robb, were among those with her at the hospital.
Although the exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown, its sudden and unexpected onset can make it a devastating disorder, according to the National Institute of Health. Recovery is not quick.
"Most people eventually, in several months, get back to their normal state," Youman said. "Most recover completely, not everybody."
Luci Baines Johnson is the founder of investment firm LBJ Wealth Management and vice president of BusinessSuites, a nationwide office business service center.
She serves on numerous boards including the LBJ Family Foundation, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation Board and the SafePlace Foundation Board.
She is a trustee emerita of Boston University, a life trustee of Children's Hospital Foundation of Central Texas and the Seton Fund. She is also a member of the advisory board of Trinity Episcopal School, and a former member of the advisory boards of The University of Texas, School of Nursing and the School of Communication.
"She's a very active person, socially, physically and mentally," Youman said. "This is just a dramatic change."
Johnson was the last person, before Chelsea Clinton, to go directly from the White House to college when she decided to attend the University of Texas in 1966. It was her impending wedding, however, that generated more media interest.