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Did Gardasil Kill Jenny Tetlock?

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Barbara Mellers' daughter, Jenny, 15, passed away in March 2009. Is Gardasil to blame?

Jenny Tetlock
Jenny Tetlock was a 15-year-old girl who lost her battle to a rapidly degenerative neurological disease on March 15, 2009. She started developing symptoms just two months after her final Gardasil injection. Her mom, Barbara, shares her story with momlogic.

ML: What kind of child was Jenny? Please describe your daughter, prior to her getting sick.

Barbara: Jenny was very active. She played soccer for many years. She enjoyed school. She liked English, science, and struggled a bit with math. She had some friends her own age. Jenny was raised essentially as an only child, because her half-brother is 16 years older than she. She hung around with us a lot and learned to enjoy and relate to grown-ups. One of the most charming things about her was how well she could connect with people of many ages.

ML: When and why did Jenny get the Gardasil vaccine?

Barbara: We had come back from a sabbatical year in New York, and Jenny needed a Hepatitis B vaccine to get registered for school. Her pediatrician mentioned this new vaccine. He said it was good, and recommended we give it to Jenny. Without much thought, I agreed, and we started the 3 vaccinations. Jenny was 12 when she received her first vaccine. That was September 2006. The second was in November 2006, and the third was in March 2007. In May 2007, she began to weaken. She died 20 months later.

ML: When did Jenny start showing symptoms or signs that something was wrong?

Barbara: In May 2007, Jenny came home from school one day having tripped over a hurdle in P.E. class. It was 1 and a half feet high. All the other kids cleared it easily. A few days later, she tripped again on the same hurdle and fell on her knee. She hurt it badly, and stayed home for a few days. Then she developed a limp that never went away. With some degenerative neurological diseases, you can lose as much as 40% of your motor neurons before you even begin to show weakness. That may have happened to Jenny.

We thought it would get better, but when it didn't, we went back to her pediatrician. We thought, perhaps her legs were different lengths. But no, the doctor said things were fine and gave her strengthening exercises. A month or two went by and we didn't see any improvement. The pediatrician suggested sports therapy. We went to Children's Hospital in Oakland and started several months of physical therapy in August 2007.

In October 2007, things weren't getting better. She then went to a pediatric neurologist, who started tests. In December 2007, we took her to another specialist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. He immediately started treatment for multifocal motor neuropathy. Jenny received IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin). We went home and followed up with a specialist at UCSF. The treatment wasn't working. She was getting weaker. By that time, she was falling too much and went from crutches to a walker. She started taking steroids. That didn't seem to work either. We still didn't know what the problem was, and we hoped the Philadelphia doctor was correct in his diagnosis. He thought she'd eventually recover in 9-10 months after extensive treatment.

In January 2008, we took Jenny to Children's Hospital in Stanford. The Stanford doctor immediately put her in the hospital to do testing, imaging, biopsies, and more. We stayed there for two weeks, but the treatments didn't seem to help. After being home for a few weeks, we went back for a few more weeks. Meanwhile, Jenny was losing her ability to hold herself up. She tried going back to school with an electric scooter, but it was just too hard. She couldn't even write or take notes. She stayed home with a tutor. We were going to the hospital and seeing many different doctors to figure out what was going on. Jenny started new treatments -- chemotherapy in March 2008. We didn't see any improvement at that point either.

Around April, we noticed that her breathing was compromised. Her FVC (forced vital capacity) was about half of what it should be. Eventually she needed help with breathing, so she went on a noninvasive ventilator. She was also given a feeding tube.

In June/July 2008, we tried to figure out how to adapt with life at home. We had nursing help. Jenny was losing her ability to turn over in bed. I slept with her and turned her whenever she wanted, trying to keep her happy and comfortable. By now, she was in bed most of the time. We had two goals. One was to find a cure, and the other was to maintain her quality of life. We wanted to keep her busy, happy, and distracted. Friends, family, and specialists came by. We had wonderful friends helping us look for other children who were similar to Jenny. We set up a website. We reached out to doctors all over the world to find treatments, experimental drugs, and medications. We tried so many things. Sometimes we thought she was getting better. Maybe the disease was slowing down or even reversing. Then she'd get a little worse, and we knew we were wrong.

In August/September 2008, school started. We got a tutor for her and overnight nursing help. Jenny had physical and occupational therapy several times a week. She was using the noninvasive ventilator around the clock. She also had a computer to help her communicate. We weren't making a lot of progress, although we kept thinking we might be. Christmas was a low point. She felt miserable. There was nausea from the medications and treatments, air in her stomach from the ventilator, and other types of pain. We worked hard to keep her feeling as good as possible.

Her birthday came on January 12th, 2009. At that point, we felt like there was actually some strengthening in her hands. She was getting more control. Then in early March, she started having trouble breathing -- despite the noninvasive ventilator. We took her to the hospital and brought her home. But things got worse. On March 9th, 2009, we took her to UCSF. She was losing her voice and her breath was very labored. She died on March 15th, 2009.

ML: When Jenny passed away, what was believed to be her cause of death?

Barbara: There was always some degree of controversy between those who favored the motor neuron diagnosis (juvenile ALS) and those who thought the disease process was autoimmune in causation. At this point, medical opinion has swung quite decisively toward the autoimmune theory, which is more consistent with the hypothesis that the Gardasil vaccine was the trigger.

ML: How did you link Gardasil to a possible cause of death?

During the Stanford hospital stays, we discussed Jenny's medical history, and initially only a few physicians thought there might be a link. Nonetheless, we filed Jenny's case in a federal database called VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) and tried to find comparable girls. The system is outdated, underutilized, and extremely hard to use. Now we have found at least one comparable case that we have been told was filed by Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil. But the information is too vague and incomplete for the CDC to contact the family. To the best of our knowledge, Merck has yet to provide the necessary information. I want to take this opportunity to beg Merck to help our doctors and the government agencies to identify any other cases that might be comparable. I know that Jenny would want us to do everything humanly possible to make sure no other girl ever suffers the pain, humiliation, and misery that she went through in the last two years of her life.

ML: Did anyone from Merck or affiliated with Merck contact you or try to reach you?

Barbara: No. As far as we know, Merck has not responded to requests for information, either from us or from Jenny's doctors. There are two types of information that experts investigating these cases need. First, Merck needs to share widely all information about any other girls with comparable symptoms. Second, Merck needs to answer -- in a transparent and scientific way -- the serious questions that have been raised about batches of vaccines that might be linked to manufacturing problems. There have been reports of bad batches. We have obtained the lot numbers from Jenny's vaccinations and asked how the lot numbers relate to the batches. We have been told that key information that experts need to test hypotheses about bad lots -- key information like how many kids received vaccines from each lot -- is considered proprietary.

ML: Is there a way legally to get them to disclose the information about the lot numbers or bad batches of the vaccine?

Barbara: I don't know, but I hope so. From a humanitarian point of view, Merck should have been much more forthcoming with information that could help the scientists working on this problem. But I see no evidence of it happening. It is a sad state of affairs if our government can't get this important information. It is also ironic, since pharmaceutical companies are protected from lawsuits involving adverse events related to the vaccines. In the 1980s, the government set up a National Vaccine Court, designed to keep pharmaceutical companies investing in vaccinations. Parents pay a surcharge on each vaccine, and that money is used by the National Vaccine Court to pay families who have experienced adverse events that followed the vaccine.

ML: What is being done now in terms of trying to figure out Jenny's cause of

Barbara: Stay tuned. Researchers at major research universities are carefully studying Jenny's case, and those of possible comparables. The evidence should be out in a few months. At least some of the evidence will very likely be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. I believe it will soon be much more difficult to deny the evidence linking Gardasil to devastating side effects in a small number of high-vulnerability cases.

ML: Have any families contacted you about their daughters? Or have you found anyone else who went through what Jenny did after taking Gardasil?

Barbara: We found another young lady who has since passed away. Her mom contacted us through our blog. She's Mormon, and had the Gardasil vaccine prior to going on her mission. She came home from her mission early due to weakness, and passed away in August 2008. There are many deeply disturbing similarities, and her case is being investigated by the same researchers.

Then another mom contacted us through the website. Her daughter experienced weakness after the Gardasil vaccine, and the young lady is currently in braces and having a great deal of trouble walking.

I think the story will slowly but surely come together. If any of your readers know of teenage girls or young adolescent girls who have experienced severe weakening or paralysis, please ask them to contact us. Jenny's website can be found by Googling "Jenny's Journey." You can reach us from that site.

ML: Is Gardasil to blame for your daughter's death, in your opinion?

Barbara: Personally, I believe that Gardasil is the most plausible explanation. But it doesn't matter what I think. What matters is that a number of prominent medical scientists at leading universities now believe that Gardasil is the most likely explanation for Jenny's case. The next big question is going to be why Jenny and perhaps a small number of other girls? And why do millions of girls who get the vaccine do just fine? That is a mystery waiting to be solved. Important clues are already starting to come to light. And I will be glad to update you again as the story unfolds.

Is the Gardasil vaccine safe for your daughter? Momlogic's OB/GYN Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz went on NBC's "Today" show this morning to shed more light on the subject.

next: You've Got to Give a Little
69 comments so far | Post a comment now
George Mitchell July 30, 2009, 12:29 AM

I think it is important to note that there are all sorts of drugs that can trigger autoimmune syndromes, not just vaccines. I nearly died from Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura that I am convinced was triggered by a simple blood pressure medication. In my early sixties, I am now struggling with neuropathic issues that I am convinced are autoimmune in nature. Fortunately, researchers are finally making a major effort to unlock the secrets of autoimmune diseases and much progress is being made. There are suspected links to vitamin D insufficiency and dietary issues. Some have benefited greatly by such things as radical changes in diet, regular brief exposure to full strength sunlight, vitamin D repletion, and new treatment strategies like low dose Naltrexone. But none of these approaches has been proven effective. In the mean time mainstream medicine is on the verge of a transition from the biologic chemo type drugs to a new generation of small molecule drugs that should be far more effective and incur less side effects. Of course, the very sad thing is that this is all coming too late for Jenny and others like her. But hopefully it will help other families in the future avoid this terrible nightmare. I applaud Jenny’s parents for making the effort to uncover the facts of this tragedy because those facts may well save other children and other families. I wish you the very best in this endeavor. - father of two girls

T July 30, 2009, 10:17 AM

The whole Gardasil campaign has bothered me from day one. First was the months of PSA-styled message that cervical cancer/HPV was dangerous, etc. etc. Of course Merck’s name never appeared on these ads.

Then soon afterward came the Gardasil ads. Of course what they neglect to mention is that the vast majority of cervical cancer is caused through sexual contact. Even on their website this fact is buried deep within the site structure.

And now this. Reduces my already minimal trust of Merck.

KARRIE LEWIS July 30, 2009, 11:50 AM

Im 26 and have 2 baby sisters, ages 8 and 10 and I have 2girls ages 4 and 1yr and NONE of them will be getting this stupid crazy crapy drug. They need to start testing men for STD’s, how come it only for women, it should be an every year thing for men just like women. Say NO to Gardakills

Pamala July 30, 2009, 4:33 PM

I think everyone should read their blog too because they’re not against vaccinations in general, they just want to make sure that the public in general is as safe as possible and understands all the risks. Plus they want to know what happened. If the vaccination caused this it’s important to figure out why, in the hopes of preventing it from happening to others. If it didn’t cause the problems, then at least they’ll know what did cause it.

Luckily I don’t have a teenage daughter and I don’t have to worry about this right now, but this vaccination for me is too new.

mam July 31, 2009, 7:17 AM

my daughter took the first dose at 12, doctor highly advised it. by the only lasts til they are 18, and only prevents a small amount of cancers..How many teens get cervical cancer? My D. had a bad reaction, felt terrible, so i asked the doctor about the “deaths” i had read about and she said Dont believe what you need to give your daughter this.. I said NO.
thank God

Katya July 31, 2009, 11:04 AM

My condolences to the family who lost their daughter to the effects of this vaccine. Ever since this vaccine came on the market and our family doctor began pushing for us to vaccinate our daughters I have been trying to find as much information as possible about this vaccine.I just came across more helpful information at this blog site :
At this time I don’t trust the drug companies or the FDA so we won’t be getting this vaccine which doesn’t match up to all the marketing hype and clearly has dire results for many patients. I’m thankful there are more women out there sounding the alarm bell about this vaccine.

Lisa  July 31, 2009, 11:21 AM


They are asking us to risk our daughters’ lives and health for a vaccine that MAY work????


I trusted our doctor and assumed he was educated about gardasil. When my daughter began having seizures post gardasil, he told us it must me a psyc issue. When my daughter connected her issues to gardasil our doctor didn’t know what VAERS was or how to report a vaccine injury.

Everyone we tell our story too, decides NOT to recieve Gardasil.

Once they are informed of BENEFITS vs RISKS.

maria July 31, 2009, 12:13 PM

I am so sorry for all this girls that have been affectedby this vaccine. I too had my oldest daughter vaccinated and although her reaction wasnt as severe she did have one. About 2 days after getting the 3rd dose she broke out in a RASH all over her body. this lasted for over a month the pediatrician and dermatoligest had no idea what it was. After reading may articles about this I WILL NEVER GIVE THIS TO MY 2 Younger daughters.Read the FDA letter contrdicting everything they say about this vaccine. And really research it before you give it to your daughters.

Lisa July 31, 2009, 3:34 PM

This is a very sad story. While I am a nurse and understand HPV and cancer, I could not see what the big benefit of this vaccine would be for my daughter versus possible risk, and refused it. My son received the recommended Hepatitis vaccine before going to college and then, on testing, it was found the vaccine had had no effect. I was told that happens in 10 or 20% of cases, and anyway the vaccinations are usually only good for 5-10 years. The doctors recommended we repeat the vaccination. I said no thank you- by then my son was a sophomore at college who had been living in a fraternity house for over a year. So yes, I think risk vs benefit is important for all of us as parents to measure. And realize most of these vaccines do not confer resistance for life.

bella chan August 1, 2009, 4:06 AM

I’m 13 and My mom let’s me take Gardisal along with YAZ!.I hve no period and I won’t get HPV.we believe only in science and not religious.
Take That Mother Nature! “flashes a pack of YAZ! pills -^=^- Thank goodness for YAZ! and Gardisal because I am one less,like the strong girls shown on TV in dance teams saying One Less! omg and YAZ! is so kewl,i TEAM EDWARD rox!

Alicia August 2, 2009, 4:31 PM

I had the vaccine(& hpv) and the shots had to be done over a span of about 18 months, it seems to me like this vaccine was given very quickly, maybe that could have something to do with it?

sarah August 3, 2009, 11:42 AM

My son’s girlfriend had her last gardasil shot in May 2009. In june she became pregnant with my grandson. She was 16 at the time. My grandson was diagnosed 6 weeks ago with hydrocephalus. While they were looking at his Ct scans for the surgery, they noticed that a third of his brain tissue never developed. Geneticists drew blood and his results just came back last week that he did not have an infection inutero and didn’t have a stroke. So we can only wonder, was it the guardasil shot????

I have a 15 yr old daughter. She had her first shot in March. I am not taking her back for 2 & 3. She doesn’t want it, it’s her body, her choice. All us “older” folks made it all these years with no guardasil shot, I’m sure my daughters will be fine too.

karen August 3, 2009, 12:37 PM

Please do the research before you make the decision to vaccinate. I did not do the research and wish I would have. My 20 yr old daughter is no longer here. Common thread is the Gardasil vaccine. She was healthy, happy. Did not smoke do drugs or drink. She was in college and had her life in the palm of her hands. Undetermined cause of death like many of these young girls, common thread is the Gardasil, please let that tell you something. (It was not fish)
Do the benefits out weigh the risks when it is one of yours children? Please check this vaccine carefully.

Kathy August 4, 2009, 6:47 AM

I feel for this family!

While I totally believe vaccinations are a necessary part of a child’s development, I had to weigh the options on getting this one for my 11 year old. I did some research and spoke with a nurse friend. The biggest thing that stuck in my mind is her saying this vaccination is to new for anyone to know what it really does and what side affects there are.

No one wants to think about their child getting cancer but is giving a vaccination that isn’t full tested and ready to go, in my opinion, and that only covers a small percentage of the related cancers worth the pain and possible risks? I know that all vaccinations can cause illness and sadly even death but some have been given for years, I got them, and the slight possibilities are well worth my child not getting these disease. But I’m not going to give her one that is just the “in thing to do”.

We go from one extreme to the other. First we have people saying there should be no vaccinations because they causes this or that; the biggest thing autism (even though I don’t feel that has been proven for sure). Then suddenly someone comes out with new vaccinations that all teens or all girls MUST have only these care higher risks.

I’m sorry but my daughters aren’t going to be guinea pigs.

gb August 4, 2009, 9:36 AM

I wonder if a lot of medicines have some kind of side effect. In 2001 I went into labor and had the epidural. I had some infection and had to stay there a week. A month later I got a rash on my feet and then slowly my body was changing. I was diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis three months later. Their was no explanation of what could of happened. I had three more children and refused to get anything for the pain. I don’t know if the epidural had something to do with it. It seems like after every baby my arthritis got better now I’m in remission from it. I couldn’t even hold my first born from the pain of my joints. It was a terrible experience I prayed everyday.

Jeanie August 4, 2009, 10:09 AM

I am outraged by this ! My daughter had the first shot and will be back for the other two. I would like to see some kind of legislation to protect our daughters and grandaughters. I would also like to see a class action lawsuit against Merck.

Cheri Tracy August 4, 2009, 11:26 AM

Hi Barbara,

I am so saddened to hear about your daughters passing. I feel for you and your family. I hope your story brings this issue into the spotlight so that no one else has to suffer like Jenny.

Please check this vaccine carefully.

Darla  August 4, 2009, 8:34 PM

Guardasil as I understand it is for young girls who are sexually active. This article does not say whether Jenny was sexually active or not. At 15 I would certainly hope not! But I am not unrealistic either.

If Jenny was not sexually active it is possible that when given the injections it was not able to do what it was intended to do and therefore had an adverse reaction in her body. Medical Doctors should not presume that all patients from a certain age and up are sexually active.

Although rare in this society there are those who still prefer to wait till marriage. Perhaps this Dr. recommended Guardasil presuming Jenny was sexually active. Who knows! It is tragic to say the least.

Inkling August 5, 2009, 6:24 PM

Our children are not guinea pigs for the drug corporations. This drug was not tested thoroughly enough, and in my opinion, is totally unnecessary. I would NEVER allow my daughter to have an injection like Gardasil. Whenever I heard about the “vaccine” it just reminded me of the IUD that was introduced to women in the 70’s that caused sterility and death. I don’t see much difference with this drug. How do we know that this will not cause death, sterility, or even have some undetermined long term effect which may cause birth defects? No Gardasil, no experimental drugs on children!

Meme August 6, 2009, 1:55 AM

I have a 16 yr old daughter and had been going back and forth about the Gardasill vaccine. I’m definately sure now - NO WAY! My sympathies to Jenny’s mom and family. This seems to be something that nevere should have happened. I pray that you recieve answers soon. You deserve that much.
I also have a comment on Bella Chan’s comment (page 1) 13 years old and on birth control? This world just amazed me. My 19 yr. old daughter is on YAZ because she is anemic and lee periods is better for her now medically. I think it is against nature, but a help in the case of my daughter’s health.
Still I cannot imagine so many 12 and 13 yr olds on the pill of any type. I was so naive at that age, and now they can tell us a thing or two. I think that’s a very sad reflection on our society. I also hope that speaking of young girls, Garasill is taken off the market. My daughter will NEVER have it and I will relay this info to my older daughter with an almost 13 year old daughter.

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