Feds award family $7.4 million over disabling vaccines

Posted: Feb 24, 2015 7:47 AM GSTUpdated: Mar 26, 2015 6:47 AM GST

By Betsy Webster, News Reporter


By DeAnn Smith, Digital Content Manager



 An Excelsior Springs man has been awarded $7.4 million because his wife was left disabled by at least one of the vaccines she took before a trip.

On June 22, 2011, Carolyn Schutte went to the Clay County Public Health Center in Liberty for a round of shots. She was preparing for a trip to Africa and received vaccinations for various diseases, including tetanus, Hepatitis A and B, and typhoid. Two days later, she was debilitated with permanent brain damage caused by encephalopathy.

"The active lifestyle that we had before is over," said Jim Schutte, Carolyn Schutte's husband and now her guardian. "It's gone. We just have to make due with what's left."

The couple were once avid travelers.

Now, Jim Schutte is homebound, assisting with his wife's around-the-clock care.

"I provide most of her care," Schutte said, "But I can't do it 24 hours a day, so I have to have somebody coming in here and helping. It gets very expensive very quickly. It costs a lot more than you might think."

His wife, who was once the mayor of Excelsior Springs, needs a hydration tube and specially prepared food. She can't walk. She is paralyzed on one side. The only words she can manage are 'yes' and 'no.' But she seems to he able to comprehend everything around her.

"When I talk to her about private jokes that we had shared, she always laughs," Schutte said. "She calls for me in the evening. She wants me to come up and hold hands with her, and so we do that from about 7:30 until she's ready for bed."

Despite all the difficulties, Jim Schutte remains a passionate advocate for vaccinations.

"What happened to Carolyn is a rarity," Schutte said. "It's a freak of nature. It happens occasionally. But the chances of it happening to you are minimal compared to the risks of actually contracting the diseases you are being vaccinated against."

He's not just talking internet research. He holds a doctorate in human growth development and had done post-doctoral work in biomedical research.

One of his fears is that his wife's rare reaction to a vaccine will further fuel the anti-vaccination movement that he is so strongly against.

"I think people are taking anecdotal situations like Carolyn's and making it into something it is not," Schutte said.

He is frustrated with the resurgence of measles cases, which he blames on people refusing the vaccinate their children, which spreads the virus to immunocompromised children who cannot safely get the vaccine.

"I have friends who are still to this day crippled by injuries they received from getting polio back in the early 1950s," Schutte said. "So you can't say that the polio vaccine is a bad idea because it's not."

The settlement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was reached on Monday. The money comes from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NCVIP), which was set up for cases where someone is injured by a vaccine. The NCVIP is funded by a tax placed on vaccines that is paid by vaccine manufacturers. The payment covers the loss of her income and helps pay for her costly care. Schutte says payments will be split up annually over 20 years to pay for his wife's home-based care.

There is no judgement of fault, and the Schuttes' lawyer, Leland Dempsey, said no one did anything wrong. He explained that vaccines work on the immune system, and a relatively small number of people's immune systems respond poorly.

"You can't predict who will suffer that auto-immune response," Dempsey said.

Because Carolyn Schutte received multiple vaccinations at once, no one knows which vaccine caused her negative reaction.

Jim Schutte does wonder whether part of her reaction came as a result of having multiple vaccines at once. He says the Centers for Disease Control have not addressed the topic, but he reasons that since vaccines trigger an immune response, having multiple vaccines administered at one time could put a greater strain on the immune system. It's with that reasoning that his grandson is getting his childhood vaccinations in spaced out doses, just in case his logic holds up.

He said his wife still has much of her personality, but has difficulty expressing it. He focuses now on her care and future.

"It hurts, but you have to deal with the reality. And that's the reality we have," he said.

The Clay County Public Health Center issued the following statement:

"The Clay County Public Health Center expresses its sincere empathy to Carolyn Schutte and her family. No words can truly ease the burden placed on the family over this tragic occurrence. We know that like any medical procedure, vaccination can have some risks. Although these events are very rare, individuals react differently to vaccines and there is no way to predict how an individual's immune system will react to a particular vaccine. We agree with and appreciate Jim Schutte's continued support of vaccines to prevent and eliminate diseases throughout the population."

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Read more: http://www.wnem.com/story/28183081/feds-give-family-74-million-over-disabling-vaccines#ixzz3noU3Xmtl