A 9-year-old girl from Tampa, Florida went in for a flu shot one day, just as millions of Americans do every year, not knowing that her life would be forever changed because of it.
The girl, Marysue Grivna, was an active 9-year-old that loved to play outside, help out in the kitchen, and could speak two languages.
Just six days after she went in for a flu shot, Marysue succumbed to a rare autoimmune disorder brought on by the shot in which the body attacks itself by targeting protective covers around nerve fibers. When the coverings are destroyed, it leaves the brain and spinal cord vulnerable to damage, sometimes leading to loss of vision and paralysis.
This is exactly what happened to Marysue just days after receiving the vaccine. She experienced paralysis one morning and was not able to speak or get out of bed, despite being fully conscious with her eyes open.
“The look on her face was like ‘Help me,’ like she was scared but she couldn’t respond to me,” Carla recalled.
By the time she reached the ICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Marysue had already experienced two seizures.
She spent the next three months hospitalized and underwent several tests to determine what the cause of her illness was. The doctors sent samples of her blood and urine to the Center for Disease Control and infectious disease specialists ran tests as well. All involved essentially told Marysue’s parents to say goodbye to their only child.
Image Credit: ABC Action News
After three months in the hospital, doctors finally reached a diagnosis: Marysue had a rare autoimmune disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, or ADEM. The disease is often triggered after a person has had a viral infection or received a vaccine. The symptoms are abrupt and usually exhibit after one to three weeks.
When asked if the doctors confirmed that the flu shot was to blame for the onset of these symptoms, Carla, her mother, said,
Her father Steven and I are certain, due to all our research, that this was what caused Marysue’s condition. The doctors won’t confirm it or deny it… [but] she was a happy, healthy, running, and playing nine-year-old. Then this happened.
Now 12 years old, caring for Marysue is essentially like caring for a newborn child. Her parents change her diapers, change her feeding tube, and help her drink out of a sippy cup. Marysue knows about 10 words now, which were very hard for her to relearn. She has been bedridden for the last three years and doesn’t have her own room anymore because her hospital bed doesn’t fit through the doorway of her room. Instead, she is forced to lay by the living room window day in and day out.
“Mentally she is all there, she understands everything you say to her,” her mom explained.
Though there’s hope that one day Marysue will recover, there is still only a 50-75% chance that she could return to her normal self with therapy. In the meantime, the Grivna family is attempting to raise funds to renovate their house to accommodate Marysue and purchase a wheelchair van so that she can be transported more easily.
Though ADEM is rare, this isn’t the only adverse reaction people can have to vaccinations and it’s better to be safe and evaluate your need for vaccines and your health history before deciding to receive a vaccine.
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