Eight year old Anna cannot sit without support or cannot walk without braces and a walker. Most of the time she sits in her wheelchair. Anna was left paralyzed after she was injected with MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine at 15 months of age.
Anna was the second of two children born to a family in Virginia. She had been a bright, healthy baby and toddler and had started walking at 13 months. When it came time for her to get her first MMR shot at 15 months, the pediatrician told her mother to expect a mild reaction anywhere from 10 days to two weeks after the shot that might include cold symptoms or a rash.
Nine days after her shot, Anna had a runny nose and a low grade fever. Her mother was not concerned about those symptoms but she was concerned that Anna was very irritable. Although her cold symptoms eventually disappeared, Anna did not return to the happy, playful toddler she had once been. Instead she continued her strange behavior, crying and wanting to be held constantly. Then Anna started tripping and falling down.
When Anna's mother called the pediatrician, he told her to put ice on the leg where he had given Anna the injection and give her Tylenol. Fourteen days after the MMR shot, Anna's mother took her child back to the pediatrician. Although Anna had always loved to play and laugh with her pediatrician, this time she screamed every time he tried to come near her.
Over the next six weeks, Anna lost the ability to sit or walk. One doctor suggested that she be seen by a psychologist to determine why Anna was refusing to walk. When Anna's mother consulted a neurologist, the neurologist immediately hospitalized Anna with a suspected diagnosis of tumor on her spinal cord. The MRI scan of her brain showed there were lesions in the white matter of her brain. All other tests came back negative.
Anna continued to deteriorate and lost all control of her trunk and legs. When she tried to sit up, she would flop over like a rag doll. Nearly every week she would run a fever for two to three days. Lab test after lab test was performed to try to find out what had happened to her. In a four week period, she endured seven spinal taps. During one hospitalization, Anna turned completely limp and doctors feared she would lose her ability to breathe on her own and would have to be put on a respirator.
Eventually Anna was put on steroid therapy, which helped her to regain her personality and stop her brain from further deteriorating. However, she remained paralyzed in the lower body, with some upper body involvement and was left with processing delays.
Today Anna attends third grade in a wheelchair. As she grows and becomes taller and heavier, it is hard for her to keep the trunk of her body upright. Anna loves to swim underwater because she says it makes her feel free.
In 1993, the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C. officially acknowledged that Anna suffered post vaccination encephalopathy following her MMR vaccination as a toddler.