MY DAUGHTER IS “ONE LESS”
I am a single mother of four children, two boys and two girls. We live in Lake Station, Indiana. Before my oldest daughter Zeda got sick, we had normal lives. I worked a full-time job. Thirteen year- old Zeda was a cheerleader and straight-A student. She was also a big help to me with my other children. She was the daughter every mother dreams of having and her future was bright.
I have always done my best to keep my kids healthy. I made sure they received their wellness checkups and they always got whatever vaccines the doctor suggested. All my kids were completely healthy aside from simple colds here and there—completely healthy, that is, until it was time for Zeda’s well visit on November 5, 2008. Then her life, as she knew it, completely changed along with the lives of the rest of our family.
On November 5, 2008, at her annual checkup, Zeda’s pediatrician suggested that she receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or, as I know it now, the Gardasil vaccine. I thought, “OK, this is what I am supposed to do to keep her healthy.” My doctor said to do it and so we did it. I knew absolutely nothing about the vaccine, other than it was for girls her age. The doctor did not advise me on any side effects, other than the potential for soreness around the injection site.
A week after Zeda got the shot, she started to complain that she wasn’t feeling well. She had headaches and felt sick to her stomach. Perhaps like other girls at her age, Zeda could be a drama queen. So when she told me these things, I would tell her to lie down, murmur to her that she had probably had a long day, or give her some Tylenol. It would have never occurred to me that those little signs could have been red flags until November 28, three weeks after she received her Gardasil vaccine. We were on our way to pick up her little sister from a friend’s house. While in the car, Zeda kept dropping her phone. Suddenly, my son said, “Mom, I think something is wrong with Zeda!” Zeda was crying, drooling, and her eyes were not looking right. She looked to me as if she had just had a seizure, which I recognized because my brother had seizures. I rushed her to the nearest emergency room at St. Margaret’s Hospital in Hammond, Indiana.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of an unbelievable nightmare for Zeda, for me, and for our entire family. The ER staff did not even know what was wrong with her. First, they accused Zeda of overdosing on drugs. They yelled right in her face, as if she was hard of hearing, that she needed to tell them what she had taken. I was scared out of my mind. I had no clue what was going on, and these doctors and nurses were screaming at my daughter. Zeda was as scared as I was. I believe she knew that something was seriously wrong. She was confused and unable to say what she wanted. It wasn’t until she had another major seizure, right in the ER, that the staff finally started to take us seriously. Of course, by then, they also had received her drug test results, which were negative for any illegal drugs.
After those first few horrible hours, they transferred Zeda to our local hospital where a pediatric neurologist and Zeda’s pediatrician could see her. I thought we would surely get some answers there. The doctors started running all kinds of tests. At this point, Zeda was unable to say a whole sentence and could only say a few words at a time. She was terrified and was crying very hard. Zeda had an MRI, a CAT scan, an EEG, and a spinal tap. Whatever they were looking for, they did not find it. Every single test was negative. The MRI did show a “shadow” on the right side of her brain, which they treated as viral encephalitis.
During those four very long days at our local hospital, I began to lose my precious daughter. Zeda stopped talking, stopped eating, stopped walking, and started urinating on herself as she lost control of her bladder. Even as Zeda’s health deteriorated rapidly, her pediatrician continued to say— unbelievably—that she was doing this to herself, that Zeda was “faking” it.
Words of reason finally came, not from the doctors, but from the nurses who agreed with me that something was terribly wrong. Zeda’s symptoms were not taken seriously until a psychiatrist came in, tested her, and issued a professional opinion that she wasn’t faking it. One nurse suggested we go to a specialty hospital, because we were getting nowhere. We agreed.
Within forty-five minutes, we were en route to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Once again, I thought that we would finally get answers. We were not so lucky. Even there, the doctors accused Zeda of doing this to herself. They installed twenty-four-hour video surveillance on Zeda and monitored her for about two weeks to try to “catch” her in the act of faking it. They continued to perform test after test, all of which came back negative. Zeda developed uncontrollable movements, an extremely high heart rate (up to 180 beats per minute), and high fevers, including one that was 108.7 degrees. At one point, her doctors placed her in a “medically-induced coma.” Through all this, they still couldn’t tell us what was wrong or why this was happening to Zeda. They opted instead to spend most of their time blaming us and trying to prove that Zeda was faking her serious medical problems. Although I repeatedly asked if it could be vaccine injury, (Wait. What? Something doesn't add up here. Up until this point she presents herself as innocently trusting her doctor's advice, ignorantly unaware of any potential side effects. In the last paragraph you excerpt she even says, "I am here to tell you that I didn’t know the harm vaccines could do. I think many parents are like me —they don’t know either. I thought vaccines would keep my children safe and healthy. That’s what the doctor told me. I never imagined that a vaccine could do this to my daughter. My doctor never told me the risks. No one else did either. I was never shown anything describing potential side effects of vaccines." And then suddenly out of the blue she is repeatedly asking if it could be vaccine injury?)
no one would touch that with a ten-foot pole. Not one medical professional would go on the record saying that the Gardasil vaccine did this to Zeda. They wouldn’t even say that a vaccine could do this to her.
Zeda eventually lost lung function and her doctors placed her on a ventilator for several months. They also inserted a tracheotomy and feeding tube because she could no longer breathe or eat on her own. We were at Riley Hospital for four months and her doctors still could not tell us what happened to her, only that they were sure it was not a vaccine reaction. They refused to acknowledge Zeda’s vaccine injury despite dozens of cases of similar reactions in previously healthy girls following the HPV vaccine.
Today, Zeda still breathes through her trach and eats with a tube. She is mostly nonresponsive and lives her life in a hospital bed in our living room with round-the-clock care and daily nursing visits. This has become the defining struggle of my life. I struggle every single day to do what I can to get Zeda better.
I deeply regret my decision to allow Zeda to get this shot. She has lost all quality of life. I would do anything to get her better, but no one has any answers for me. The doctors still don’t believe it was the vaccine. Now that she’s sick, no one knows how to help my baby girl.
Tragically, the number of “Gardasil Girls” like my daughter continues to grow. The Truth About Gardasil website (http://truthaboutgardasil.org
) posts many of their stories. The federal government added Gardasil as a recommended shot for sixth grade girls in 2008, the same year that Zeda received this brand-new vaccine. I can’t help but think, if only . . . if only I had read the editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine that someone recently showed me—“Human Papillomavirus—Reasons for Caution.” It was published two months before Zeda’s doctor gave her the Gardasil shot. I now know that pap smears are just as effective, if not more effective in preventing cervical cancer. If this isn’t already too much to bear, in the summer of 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices added the recommendation that sixth grade boys should now receive the HPV vaccine. My sons and my younger daughter will never get this vaccination. We had to sacrifice Zeda to learn this hard lesson.
Even as I have been writing this chapter, another family contacted me to ask for help. They said their daughter had the same experience as Zeda. Our heartbreaking reality is now theirs and they too are being offered no diagnosis or help from their doctors, but only accusations that their daughter is “faking it.” It is heartbreaking to watch this play out for them and to have no help to offer.
Judicial Watch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization, began investigating reports of adverse events from the HPV vaccine in 2007 and issued two critical reports detailing the adverse outcomes of the vaccine. After reviewing government reports on Gardasil, Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, remarked, “The FDA adverse event reports on the HPV vaccine read like a catalog of horrors. Any state or local government now beset by Merck’s lobbying campaigns to mandate this HPV vaccine for young girls ought to take a look at these adverse health reports.”
As of November 17, 2010, there have been 20,978 adverse HPV vaccine reactions reported. There are eighty-nine deaths associated with the vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to issue a position on these cases. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conceded an HPV vaccine injury-related case on October 5, 2010.
I am here to tell you that I didn’t know the harm vaccines could do. I think many parents are like me —they don’t know either. I thought vaccines would keep my children safe and healthy. That’s what the doctor told me. I never imagined that a vaccine could do this to my daughter. My doctor never told me the risks. No one else did either. I was never shown anything describing potential side effects of vaccines. If you do choose to vaccinate, you had better be very comfortable about the need for each vaccine, because every time you vaccinate your child, there is a risk of severe injury and death. It is crucial that parents understand what is at stake and that the choice is theirs to make. I am not telling you not to vaccinate. I am telling you that people who pressure you to vaccinate don’t own the consequences. Only you, as parents, do.