Arlene Connin's stepson Jordan McFarland developed Guillain-Barre syndrome after getting the swine flu vaccine. He's now in a wheelchair.
Arlene Connin: I had been calling my pediatrician's office to see if they had the regular flu shot in, and they kept telling me they were out. I called every Friday, because that's when they got their shipment in. But the Friday before we left for a cruise to Bermuda, they told me they'd have the shots the following Thursday (November 5), which was the day we got back from our vacation. I felt so lucky, and I scheduled appointments for both of my boys to get them right away.
This was the fourth year I've gotten the flu shot for my sons. I've always thought it was an important thing to do.
Once we were in the office, the nurse told me that my kids were in the high-risk group since they have asthma, and they were eligible to get the swine flu vaccine also. So we got them.
My son Jordan, who's 14 and in ninth grade, got a really bad headache the next day at school. That was around 11 AM, 18 hours after he got the shot. He was freezing and had the chills. He tried to work through it and get through class. He borrowed his teacher's heater. At one point, he even fell asleep at the desk. He had played basketball with his dad the night before and thought he was just overtired.
When he got on the school bus to go to his after-care program, his muscles started
spasming and shaking, and he was unable to control his upper body. He couldn't walk. He called his dad on the school bus driver's cell phone, and his dad headed over to pick him up. But the caretaker at the after-care facility said they couldn't wait for his dad, and they called 911.
At first, we didn't know how serious it was. I went to pick up my 6-year-old son and take the cat to the vet, and my husband stayed at the hospital. We figured we'd divide and conquer, and we were in constant communication on the phone.
When I got to the hospital, he was moving his upper body uncontrollably. It seemed like he was dancing in the bed. It was so shocking and scary for everyone, because we didn't know what was going on.
The next day, they diagnosed Jordan with Guillain-Barre syndrome. The way they explained it to me was that GBS is a combination of symptoms, not something you can really test for definitively. But by Saturday, they were certain that is what he had.
Now Jordan is in a wheelchair and uses a walker. We've been told this is a treatable thing, and that he will get back his mobility and his strength through intense physical therapy.
It's a shock, to say the least.
They say GBS is so rare -- I don't know what the common denominator is of the people who get it. We've been hearing from a lot of other people who have GBS. Some say they didn't get a vaccine before they developed symptoms, and they don't know why they got it. Others got it right after receiving a vaccine, and many hate the drug companies and the government now. Every case is different. But there is no doubt in my mind that Jordan got GBS from his swine flu shot.
They say with some hard work, Jordan may be able to regain some mobility in six to eight weeks. That's what we are hoping for.
Jordan is holding up okay -- once he knew he was not going to play any sports anytime soon, it really sunk in for him. It's been difficult for the family. Before this, we were always playing some kind of sports, and now we're housebound. My in-laws have been over here taking shifts. We're not supposed to leave Jordan alone, even for a minute, so he has to be monitored 24 hours a day, just so he won't try to get up, then fall down and hurt himself.
Jordan's back to school some now, but has to use a wheelchair and have shorter days. He's in honors classes and doesn't want to get too far behind.
If someone asked me whether or not they should get a swine flu shot for their child, I would say it has to be up to that person. I think I would do it if this didn't happen to me. I would still do it. They keep saying 4,000 people have died of swine flu. I'd take this kind of paralysis over death.
But you still have to wonder ... why Jordan?