By the first grade, she had developed a love for helping “special needs” children. She seemed to have an instinct for their needs and the children seemed respond to her even when they would respond to no one else. From first grade through Junior High, being a classroom assistant to these children was her pet project. She attended field trips with them and cheerfully went the extra mile to attend their birthday parties.
Ashlee was an honor student, active in extra-curricular activities such as cheerleading and student council. Her life seemed perfect. Then, at the age of 13, the first crack in her perfect world appeared. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).Her dedication and drive would not let her surrender. She made adjustments and continued on. When the RA went into remission, she resumed her normal activities.
Then, in June 2009, just before her 15th birthday, she went for a routine medical exam. The nurse practitioner suggested the Gardasil vaccine. Her mother remembered hearing the commercials, but had never considered it. She expressed concern regarding possible side effects of the vaccine, because of Ashlee’s RA, and was told it was “harmless.”
When mom said, “If there is a side effect to be had, SHE will have it,” the nurse practitioner indicated the only possible side effect would be a rash, or reddening, at the injection site. Knowing Ashlee had never experienced an adverse reaction to vaccines in the past and trusting the medical advice–mom agreed, thinking she was doing a wonderful thing for her child–protecting her!
Within 20 to 30 minutes, the nightmare began. Ashlee began feeling nauseated and light-headed. She went to lay down and was not able to get up for the next 4 days. She ran a fever, had terrible body aches, numbness along the left side of her neck and shoulder on the injection site side, extreme dizziness (to the point of blacking out when she tried to stand), headaches, vomiting and diarrhea.
Her mother immediately called the doctor, suspecting the vaccine. She was assurred that it was not possible and told Ashlee ‘must have picked up a bug’ while in the office.
After 4 days, the fever began to subside and Ashlee felt a little better. The vomiting and headaches continued. Ashlee was scheduled to spend the summer with her father, but during the visit, the symptoms continued. She could not hold down food and was not getting any better. Her mother had to bring her home after only 4 weeks. The vomiting continued to get worse and Ashlee began to experience severe pelvic pain.
After only 8 days at home, Ashlee had to be taken to the emergency room. She was diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and sent home with three prescriptions she was unable to keep down.
Another trip to the hospital, Ashlee was admitted for 5 days with IV antibiotics to try and control the PID. After an endescope, catscan, MRI and HIDA scan, that all came back ‘normal,’ Ashlee was again sent home. This time with an appointment for a colonoscopy at a later date.
It has been 9 months now, and Ashlee still vomits every day. Sometimes she goes up to 8 days without being able to hold down as much as a saltine cracker. This once vibrant, alive and caring person sleeps all the time and suffers from severe depression because she can no longer do the things she loves. She is currently in counseling because of her thoughts of suicide.
Ashlee only had one of the recommended three Gardasil shots.
Her mothers words: “I am a Gardasil mom. I hate that title. Where I used to worry about my daughter getting a cavity, I now worry if she will live through this at all! No one should have to go through
Written by Norma Erickson, Vaccines Examiner