In the middle of June 2009, Ashlie received her first and only Gardasil vaccine. Approximately 16 days later Ashlie began to complain that her legs were not working correctly. Looking back, I am not sure what I thought it was, but I had her take some Tylenol. The next morning, I came downstairs and Ashlie was lying on the couch. She told me that she had crawled from her room and down the stairs to get to the couch. She informed me she could not walk. I asked her to stand. She tried and fell to the floor.
She was quickly taken to our local ER. The doctor threw his hands in the air saying he had no idea and it must be growing pains. She was given crutches and a prescription for steroids. I took her home convinced the doctor was wrong, as I am a mother of 5 daughters and had never witnessed growing pains like that.
Later that night, I helped Ashlie in and out of the bathtub because she could no longer walk. I went to hand her something and to my horror discovered that her arms and hands were not working either. She literally could not pick up what I was handing her. I rushed Ashlie to an ER over an hour away. I carried her in, and for a crowded ER on a Saturday night, she was seen within 1 hour.
I was asked if she had been sick and I informed them she had not. We were told that she had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). I could not figure out how she got this.
Once she was admitted to the hospital, they handed me a bunch of literature on GBS. My answer to how she contracted GBS was in the first sentence that I read, and it said that you can get GBS from a vaccine. She had just had a vaccine, the Gardasil vaccine earlier that month.
As Ashlie lay in the hospital bed I watched her go from a vibrant young girl to a shell of non-existence. She was unable to walk, she was unable to get up to use the bathroom and as she couldn’t eat, an NG tube was placed in her nose so they could feed her. She was given intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) and plasmapheresis , in the hope that this would stop the paralysis and start it descending.
Within 24 hours things went from bad to worse. Her respiratory system was shutting down. The GBS was paralyzing her to the point that she could not breathe. She was rushed to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Within minutes of being there she stopped breathing. I could not believe what I was seeing. My baby girl was dying before my very eyes. They put her on a bi-pap machine to help her breathe and on July 1, 2009 Ashlie was intubated. She could no longer breathe on her own, to keep her alive a machine had to do the work for her. Her heart was racing, ranging between 160-180 bpm. For the next 2 1/2 weeks, I sat and watched as she continued to get worse.
Slowly her body began to “heal” and the GBS started to descend. After 3 weeks of being intubated, she began to breathe on her own and was extubated. However, as the feeling came back, she was in excruciating pain. Pain so bad she felt like we were ripping her skin off if we touched her. She was then transported to Orange County to Healthbridge Children’s Hospital for rehabilitation. Ashlie spent another 4-weeks away from home doing physical and occupational therapy 7-days a week. She was tired, her body hurt, her body would not cooperate at times, and we had lots of tears. After spending her 13th birthday in the hospital we decided it was time to go home and start our new lives.
After 6-months of therapy at our local hospital the therapists said there was not much more they could do for her and she was as good as she was going to get. That was not the answer I wanted to hear. She was only 13-years-old.
Although some things fell into place, we noticed that Ashlie’s health began to change also. She was unable to keep foods down. Anytime she ate, she became very ill and everything came out one way or another. We noticed that she would have dizzy spells and pass out. She would have severe nerve pain at times, to the point that she could not be touched by anyone anywhere on her body. She said it felt as if her skin was being pulled from her body again. I have watched her go in and out of consciousness and struggle to breathe. We have taken Ashlie to many different doctors and specialists. At one point they almost did heart surgery on her to try and stop her from passing out.
She has been seen in different emergency rooms over the last 4 years only to be told time and time again, that there is nothing wrong with her and that it is all in her head.
Finally, during the summer of 2013, I was reading a story about a girl who had been injured by the Gardasil vaccine. I never read the comments below because I find them to be rude or critical. This particular day, I decided to read one.
A lady mentioned a doctor who helped her niece. I contacted her and then the doctor. The doctor was Dr. Mark Flannery at HealthWise Clinical Nutrition. My first phone call to HealthWise Clinical Nutrition, was the first time I was hopeful that Ashlie would get better. In talking to them on the phone they were not shocked at her condition and they were very familiar with it. Finally, finally we were going to get help and the answers we were looking for. Happy that someone believed us. It took a few months to get all of Ashlie’s medical records in order. We contacted all of her doctors and specialists that we had been seeing. The staff at HealthWise Clinical Nutrition was amazing, keeping in constant contact with me through the process and answering any questions I was having. We met with Dr. Flannery in Sept 2013 and started treatment in October 2013. It has been a long hard road. Ashlie has completely changed her eating pattern and takes many supplements. She has phone appointments with him every 4-6 weeks. She is taking less supplements now and is getting ready to soon start bringing foods back into her diet. She feels amazing and she looks amazing. She was sick all the time before seeing Dr. Flannery, and now, she feels like she has her life back.
One of her goals she discussed with Dr. Flannery was to become flexible again. A silly thing to most, but to her as a dancer it is everything. She is slowly but surely getting it back. I even watched her do a backbend from a standing position a few days ago. Something I thought I would never see again.
I regret every day giving her this vaccine, but I am so glad she is such a fighter and has not given up. We hope too that whatever we can achieve for Ashlie can benefit so many other girls and boys who have also been badly injured by the Gardasil vaccine.
Shawna S., Big Bear City, CA