By Tamara Toussaint-Brown, Loveland Colorado
Haleigh’s story starts out like many others. She was always involved in some kind of sports: gymnastics, dance, cross country, track/field, flag football, basketball, softball, plus just doing outdoor activities bike riding, long boarding, hanging out with friends etc… The family was always involved and enjoyed watching her at any of her events. She was very happy, though she was always shy and quiet in her classes (her teachers always told us how much they loved her and how respectful she is but wished she would talk more).
The only time she ever went to the doctor was to get immunizations and physicals to play sports and couple of injury visits. Haleigh received her first injection of Gardasil on the 26th of June 2008 and the second on the 24th of September 2009.
She was in 7th grade with her 13th birthday coming up at the end of Jan 2010. We planned a trip to the “haunted” Stanley Hotel in Estes. I remember earlier in January she was sick and vomiting a couple different times. When she recovered I thought – good, she will be healthy for the trip to the hotel.
While at the ‘haunted’ hotel, she slipped and fell on a small grass hill and broke her wrist. We all joked about it saying that a ghost pushed her.
During the first weeks of Feb 2010, she started to have stabbing pains in her right side (gallbladder) and more nausea. At first, the doctors thought maybe the pain was from the fall at hotel and prescribed physical therapy and some pain meds.
That didn’t work, so they said she was either having cramps or she was constipated. She was prescribed a soft laxative. Haleigh knew this was not her problem.
We returned to the office several times, pleading with them to not prescribe any more medications that would simply mask the problem. We knew something was seriously wrong.
They could see from her medical records that we did not visit them previously for anything other than routine visits. Haleigh explained repeatedly that she was experiencing stabbing pains and nausea all the time.
In April we went in and the doctor actually asked how she was during spring break insinuating that she might have been faking symptoms to avoid school. I said, “As the matter of fact, it is her spring break now and she is miserable.”
I could not believe they just kept trying to medicate her for a UTI (urinary tract infection), cramps and constipation.
After two and half months of watching her suffer rolled in ball crying, I searched for additional help and found a doctor who ordered a hydascan (special nuclear die test). This test revealed that her gallbladder was functioning at less than 10% of normal capacity.
Her gallbladder was removed two days before Easter 2010. The surgeon said he had no idea why it was not functioning because it looked to be a healthy gallbladder with no sludge or any defects.
No, she did not fit the profile for a gallbladder issue but we were happy to have the answer and move on. She would feel better now. The stabbing pain was gone. She was affected by foods now that she didn’t have a gallbladder. We had to spend some time getting used to know what foods she could and could not eat.
In Sept 2010, she started having issues again – back to hospitals and doctor visits. This time we thought it was due to her gallbladder but, the stabbing pain had come back in the lower right side this time.
The doctors said this was because she might have ovarian cysts and sent her to the women’s clinic during the first week of November. The clinic put her on birth control pills and Vicodin.
By the end of November, Haleigh was in so much pain her family doctor sent us back to the women’s clinic where the doctor said this has nothing to do with cysts. She felt it was appendicitis and admitted her to the hospital.
The hospital kept her there for two nights and many tests with no explanations forthcoming. They said she was a ‘mystery’.
The family doctor thought stress was causing her stomach to produce too much acid and said she should take some antacids.
After watching her suffer again with stabbing pain, I started searching for answers with other doctors. We went to Children’s Hospital and saw a gastroenterologist. The week before Christmas she was back in surgery getting her appendix removed and small cyst that had ruptured on her right ovary.
Again the surgeon stated that the appendix looked healthy. So now that she has no gallbladder or appendix and she’s on birth control pills to help with cysts. She should be on the up and up now.
Despite all of Haleigh’s mysterious new symptoms, no one considered the possibility of any connection to the Gardasil vaccine. She received her third and final injection on the 9th of March 2011.
Throughout the entire ordeal, her teachers were very understanding and helpful. They knew Haleigh and felt so bad knowing she was not well. She desperately wanted to get back into sports. Running was painful for her now and tiring. We thought this to be from her surgeries.
Haleigh started gymnastics again just before 9th grade started and injured the lisfranc ligament in her foot. She was unable to start the softball season in high school because she was in a boot.
The summer before 10th grade she had high school softball practice and began the season. Right at the start of school she had a first aid class outside and was stung by a bee in the foot. Haleigh has been stung before and had no allergic reaction, but this time her foot became so swollen she could not get her cleats on for her softball games for a couple of weeks.
Once she was back to practice she was hit in the face with ball while warming up with a teammate. She was unable to play for most of the season because of the concussion, but was back playing by the end of season.
After Haleigh’s 16th birthday in January, she experienced pounding headaches and spells of vomiting every day up to 6 times per day for almost 3 months. We now had a different family doctor. He ordered many tests to be done all of which came back normal. Again with the “mystery” illness. He thought she should try Prilosec. This did not help, so he sent us back to Children’s Hospital to the gastroenterologist. They did an endoscopy and found that she had bile in her stomach and that her stomach lining was irritated – but could not see why.
She was also having constant headaches that did not go along with GI problems, so we were referred back to the concussion clinic. They stated it was too far past the time of the accident for her conditions to be post-concussion symptoms.
Throughout this time we did all that was asked of us, went wherever they sent us, and submitted to every test they recommended. With no questions asked!
Her doctor would just say, “She’s a mystery, maybe we are just chasing our tails with no answers to be found.”
Now it’s 2014, she has missed lots of school. Her teachers could tell she wasn’t well and were very helpful with her class work.
January and February of this year brought on another bout of nonstop vomiting and headaches. Back to ER more blood tests and scans – all coming back normal.
Now, doctors are mentioning more and more that she must be under stress which is causing all of her ‘mysterious’ new medical conditions. This of course does not make us happy. We know that depression is not the cause of our daughter’s new health issues. Having doctors claim it is depression is discouraging and depressing all by itself.
Around the middle of Feb 2014, she began to have some type of small seizures. I came home from work and found her on the floor, very upset and scared. She said her heart was racing, then her legs went stiff and she fell to floor shaking.
I called the doctor and they sent us to the emergency room. The ER doctor did CAT scan and blood tests and found everything normal. The doctor stated Haleigh obviously had depression which was causing this to all happen.
At this visit we spoke with the hospital counselor. That is when the light came on for us regarding Gardasil. I discovered that she had her 2nd HPV shot just 4 months before the Jan 2010 stomach issues.
We followed up with the family doctor and asked if it could be the HPV Vaccine. His answer was, “I’m looking on the VAERS reports right here and I don’t see anything that shows any side effects reported.”
He said he felt it was “conversion disorder” and wrote it down for me. He said he wasn’t saying she was crazy or doing it on purpose but that her brain was causing all of this to happen.
I asked him right then, “So, what you are saying is that her brain caused her gallbladder to stop functioning?”
His answer was, “That may have been the root cause for all of this. She should go to a psychiatrist so that she has someone that would listen since she’s been through so many mystery illnesses with no answers.”
He also said that he didn’t want to put her through any more test with no answers; that we were just going in circles.
I asked if there was some test that could be done to at least rule out the possibility that her symptoms might be related to Gardasil.
He replied, “We haven’t got one yet.”
In April 2014, Haleigh got very sick again. This time her throat and face started to swell, so we were told to take her to ER where she tested positive for mono. She was vomiting every day for two weeks, she also had headache and dizziness.
We now have more of an understanding of what is going on with our Haleigh. Just knowing helps us get through this nightmare ride. We hope to get answers by reaching out.
Here is a list of some of her many symptoms throughout the past 4 years:
Here is a partial list of the medications she was given the last 4 years:
Some of these medications were prescribed many times. Had any of them worked at all for her, we would have stop searching for answers. At this point, reaching out to others who are in similar circumstances is our only hope of obtaining any answers. We have no other option.
I hate the fact that I was made to question my daughter. I hate the fact that the medical community tried to convince me this was simply teen hormones and/or stress.
I cannot begin to describe how difficult it has been to watch her suffer so badly and receive nothing but doubt and excuses from the professional medical community. I can only imagine how difficult it has been for Haleigh.
Nevertheless, Haleigh has stayed strong through the whole ordeal. She has had the support of family, close friends and teachers. We will all continue to support her and fight to find answers for her.