MMR deaths

MMR Killed My Daughter

Daily Mail (UK) 18/5/04

by Bonnie Estridge

The authorities still refuse to admit any link between autism and the MMR jab. Yet this mother tells for the first time how she made them concede it DID cause her child's death.

Last week, the parents of 1,000 children allegedly damaged by the MMR vaccine were sent letters by one of the drug manufacturers, threatening them with huge legal costs if they refused to drop their claims for compensation. One mother, Carol Buxton, found the news particularly shocking. Thirteen years ago, her daughter fell ill and died following the MMR jab. But Carol, a travel consultant who lives with her police officer husband Tony and three sons in Northampton, did get her day in court - with astonishing conclusions. Here, she reveals to BONNIE ESTRIDGE how she made the Government accept liability.

When I heard of this latest twist to the MMR debacle, my blood ran cold. Why should these parents be intimidated into dropping their claims for compensation? If anyone should believe that they are right to fight on, it's me. For not only did my daughter fall ill after she was injected with the controversial triple vaccine, she died as a direct result of it.

How can I be so sure? Because I was paid 85,000 in compensation for her death by the Government. The decision that MMR led to my only daughter's death was confirmed by doctors and agreed at a tribunal.

So what I want to know is: why did the Government admit liability to me when it is vilifying so many others?

I will never forget the moment I opened the door of Hannah's nursery on a winter's night 13 years ago. The room was warm, but I felt a chill throughout my body - I sensed something was wrong. I looked into the cot and froze. My baby had died in her sleep, just two months before her third birthday.

I felt shock, panic and a stabbing emptiness as well as anguish. Hannah had died from one of the hundreds of fits she suffered during her short life. My husband Tony and our three sons were devastated.

The Department of Health was forced to listen to me - and two other families whose children also died - when we brought our case.

But it was only after her death that they paid compensation, admitting that the brain damage she suffered was directly attributed to MMR. So what price do today's parents have to pay before anyone will listen?

We didn't go to court because our daughter died. We had been trying for compensation for some time before because Hannah was very disabled and we wanted her to have some kind of financial security.

She was suffering up to 40 fits a day, but we were told that it would take months or years before a decision could be made. But two years after she died, our case was heard and the link between her illness and MMR was agreed.

Our nightmare began when Hannah was 18 months old, in October 1988. She had been due to have the single measles vaccine at 13 months but had a cold, so our GP and I decided it should not be given.

I had no misgivings about my baby having the single measles vaccine, as my sons - now in their 20s - had all had it with no ill effects.

As we had already booked a holiday, we would have been away at the time of the next available appointment.

Unfortunately, the third time Hannah was called to be vaccinated was the first week the MMR jab was introduced.

I thought nothing of it at all. It seemed a good idea to get everything over in one go. She was fine after it - but a week later, she developed a very high temperature, and became very red in the face.

I called the doctor out and asked him whether he thought there was any link with the vaccine, but he said this was highly unlikely and diagnosed her as having 'slapface syndrome' - a mild virus which causes a high temperature and a marked redness of the face.

I gave her some Calpol to try and bring her temperature down and put her to bed. When I went to tuck the boys up, all was quiet in Hannah's nursery.

But as I opened the door to look in on her, I could hear a strange noise and I froze - she was having convulsions and her eyes were staring and glazed.

I stripped her clothes off and made sure she couldn't bang her head on the side of the cot and then called the doctor.

He arrived minutes later. The doctor looked alarmed because she wasn't calming down at all, and suggested I take her to the hospital, which would be quicker than calling an ambulance.

A neighbour drove us there and when we arrived, Hannah was rushed away for tests. It took almost four hours to stop the fits; then, heavily sedated, she stayed in intensive care for a week.

I mentioned the MMR, but I certainly didn't make a fuss about it because I could see they were more concerned with what was happening at that moment: they had to stop Hannah having these fits.

The doctors said that they didn't think the vaccine had caused it. They explained that it was quite common for babies to have febrile convulsions when they had a high temperature due to a virus. There was no mention of the fact that she might be brain-damaged.

Tony and I were terrified when we took her home, because she was just not right. She was jittery - having always been calm - and had stopped talking.

I felt very frightened that she would have more fits, although she'd been put on medication to prevent them.

Two weeks later, the fits started again. When a brain scan showed nothing, Tony and I embarked on a treadmill of hospital visits, including Great Ormond Street, in an effort to find out what was causing them.

Blanks were drawn everywhere we went. Epilepsy was suggested, but there was no family history of it, or anything on the brain - such as a tumour - to indicate why she should have become epileptic. By then, Hannah was having anything from one to 40 fits a day, of varying intensity.

Looking back, I don't know how I coped. I had the three boys to look after, too, and we tried to make family life normal. But how could it be? I never felt safe to leave Hannah for a minute. It was so stressful to see her suffer.

Hannah was definitely not normal; she had been slow in walking even before having the MMR jab, but I was told that some children take a while to catch up and by the time she was two she'd be fine.

Now, she was frankly backward. She had virtually stopped talking - the only word she ever said now was 'Mummy', which broke my heart whenever she said it, and she always had an unfocused look in her eyes.

She was never diagnosed autistic, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case.

Over the 18 months that we tried to find out what was wrong with Hannah, I could see the doctors were bewildered.

I did not mistrust any of them, even when I found out that a strain of the MMR being used in this country had already been banned in Canada. I truly felt that the doctors were unaware of this - but in hindsight, I'm not completely sure they were.

As it turned out, the MMR vaccination was banned in Japan in 1992, and that country went back to single vaccines from then on. 

The day Hannah died everything had been perfect. We'd visited my sister-in-law who had just had a baby and Hannah seemed to be enjoying herself.

That night, I went to look in on her and found her dead in her cot. She'd had a fit in her sleep.

Before Hannah died, Tony and I had been terribly worried about how we would look after her as she got older. We are a comfortably-off family, though not wealthy by any means, and we thought Hannah would need very special care as she got older; we didn't know how we would be able to afford it while also giving our other children a reasonable standard of living.

During Hannah's illness I always felt there was a connection with the MMR vaccine, but my opinion was either dismissed by doctors or they genuinely appeared not to know.

Then, I heard about the Vaccine Damage Unit, a body set up by the Government to look into any case where a person might have been injured by a vaccine. Tony and I decided we would apply for compensation, which would perhaps help us to look after Hannah.

Every so often, I received letters from the unit saying the matter was still being looked into. But two weeks before Hannah died, I had a letter saying that her case was on-going and would probably take months or years to reach a conclusion.

Just after she died, I had another letter saying that the MMR link was unproven, and I became very angry. I believed that they wanted to get rid of this 'problem'.

So, we went to appeal, deciding to represent ourselves. We went to the tribunal in March 1992. There had been an autopsy as this had been a case of sudden death but no conclusions had been drawn from it.There were half a dozen people on the tribunal a mix of lay-people and doctors.

I was questioned thoroughly for an hour and a half, then they said I would be informed whether I would be awarded compensation by post, as all the facts now had to be carefully considered.

Four months later, we received a letter which included the following: 'Hannah Buxton was disabled as a result of a vaccination to which the claim relates.' It also stated: 'The tribunal found it particularly significant that the reaction to the MMR vaccination was exactly at the expected period of time following this vaccination. This reaction was severe and prolonged, and therefore the development and progress were halted and if anything, deteriorated to a marked and obvious extent. We know this evidence is uncontested and to our minds argues strongly in favour of the award.'

In other words, the Government had not argued against the case and were admitting liability.

We were awarded 20,000 - the maximum amount allowed at the time; this was followed by another 65,000, four months later, because the original payment was deemed not to be enough.

I really didn't want to know about the money. I just needed to know why Hannah had become so ill and why she had died.

The most important thing for me is that someone had confirmed what I had always suspected - that the MMR had caused this; that MMR had done so much damage to the brain that she became severely handicapped, and started having fits.

That is why I am so angry that the parents who believe MMR has damaged their children are not being listened to. I have heard that a number of those autistic children also have fits. I cannot imagine what it must be like caring for these children, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do. They must be listened to, given answers and helped.

Does a child have to die before it is acknowledged to have been damaged by MMR? Is it not enough that so many parents have a disabled child to look after?

Of course, not every child is damaged by the MMR jab. But if there is any doubt, then that case should be investigated individually - the parents should not simply be fobbed off as a group because they are fighting together.

There should be a tribunal for each and every one of them, to prove or disprove that there is a link between their child's illness and MMR.

Someone needs to come clean about MMR, as this problem goes on and on. Our children are getting pushed into having this vaccination, and doctors should listen to parents when they say they are afraid of what might happen.

The Government should not deny parents the option of single measles vaccine.

Hannah was my precious only girl, and barely more than a baby when she died. Now, I want today's children to have a better chance.

There must be a proper investigation into MMR - drug companies which are paying doctors to conduct their own research surely cannot give unbiased answers.

Vaccine damage is known and recognised. Last year more than 1,000 Japanese children were awarded compensation after being damaged by MMR vaccination. Those families had been battling for more than ten years to have their day in court.

Why can't parents in this country be given the chance to be heard - and taken seriously - now?