Simple jab that left my healthy son’s life in ruins
Daily Express May 16, 2000

SHEILA Draper devotes her life to caring for her son Gregg after he suffered serious brain damage from a routine vaccination. Yet all she has received from the Government by way of compensation is 20,000 — and she had to fight six years even for that.

It all began when she took Gregg, then a healthy six-month-old baby, to be immunised against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. She believed it would not only protect him against the potentially life-threatening diseases, but also help to eradicate them in society as a whole.

But 15 years on, Sheila has a severely disabled son. The vaccine she believed would protect him caused such damage to his brain that Gregg now has no use of his limbs, suffers from epilepsy and has breathing difficulties.

"My GP had been pressing me to start Gregg on the vaccination programme," she said. Before the vaccination, the doctor gave her son a 100 per cent clean bill of health.

"I asked him if there was anything I should look out for after his vaccination and he said that Gregg might be a little hot in the evening" said Sheila. But at 9.30pm, when she was about to give Gregg his last feed of the day, she noticed that something was wrong.

"When I went over to his pram, I couldn’t see his eyes," she said. "His eyes were turned up, the pupils appeared and then disappeared, and he had a raging temperature.

"When I picked him up he began to scream and scream and scream. While I was holding him, there were these jerks and little twitches, 30 to 40 at a time, mostly down his left Side. That continued all night and all the next day"

When Sheila called the surgery the next day, a doctor told her the symptoms were normal.

"I was terribly worried," she said. "I kept going back to the baby clinic because I knew there was something awfully wrong. No one would tell me what the jerks were.

"I had three children before Gregg, all of whom went through the vaccination programme, and I had never seen anything like this before. I am not anti-vaccination, but unfortunately Gregg suffered a very severe adverse reaction."

It was only when Sheila. -took Gregg for a routine check-up at the now closed Princess Mary Maternity Hospital in Jesmond, Newcastle, six weeks later that a doctor realised what was wrong.

"The consultant said to me, ‘Can’t you see the boy is brain damaged? He is mentally retarded and is having epileptic fits’.

"He carried him in his arms to the other side of the hospital where Gregg had a brain scan which confirmed what the doctor had said."

Devastated and frightened, Sheila took Gregg home and began what has become a lifetime of dedicated care for her son, who has irreversible brain damage.

"He is so severely disabled, he can’t turn himself over," she said. "He says, ‘Mummy, can you sort my legs out for me’ and it takes half an hour to straighten them out. Gregg has all the special needs to be taken care of. Everything that most people take for granted - washing, dressing, cleaning their teeth, going to the lavatory - he can’t do any of that for himself But he has got a wonderful sense of humour and he watches sport and videos. Despite everything, he is a very happy child."

FOR most of the time she has cared for him on her own because her husband, a merchant navy officer for 35 years, often worked away from home, and her three other children are grown-up.

Following the diagnosis of brain damage, Sheila had to wait two years before she could apply to the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme. In 1987, her application — based on medical reports - was refused. Then in 1991, she attended an appeal hearing with gregg who was in a wheelchair.

A panel of doctors heard how Gregg had never sat up, never walked and never stood up in his life. When they asked to examine him, Sheila took him out of the wheelchair herself and laid him on the floor so the panel could see the full extent of his disability

This time the panel agreed Gregg was 80 per cent disabled — the criteria needed to receive a payment -and he was awarded a one-off sum of 20,000. "That is the only money we have had and I have never been offered any care," said Sheila. ‘Gregg needs round-the-clock care. All his limbs are disabled and he has cerebral palsy in his lips which makes him wretch when he eats. He can still wear the arm band he had when he was born because his arms are so skinny"

TODAY, Sheila, 56, from Scots Gap, Northumberland, has to sleep in the same room as Gregg, constantly listening out for his breathing. if he has a fit and doesn’t come out of it within five minutes, she has to give him doses of drugs, otherwise he could die. She gets 40.45 a week to provide 24-hour care for her son.

"What strikes me most about Gregg is that, with all his problems, he is always apologising to me," said Sheila. "On one occasion, he said, ‘Mummy, I have spoilt your life’. I jumped up and gave him the biggest cuddle and kissed him. I said, ‘Of course you haven’t you are mummy’s soldier’."

The Government, she feels, has failed parents like her. "Many people received only 10,000—you can’t even buy a family car for that, let alone care for the victim for the rest of their natural life," she said.

"In mnay cases, the parents die before the child. We want to make arrangements for Gregg so that he receives quality care, but it costs a lot of money—the least I have been quoted is 120,000 a year."

She added: "I have got no pleasures in my life and I never go out. There is nothing to look forward to, to the point that, sometimes, I don’t even know what day it is."

gregg2.jpg (265609 bytes)
CONSTANT CARE: Sheila with Gregg, who suffered severe brain damage after a routine vaccination

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