Transverse myelitis  Swine flu vaccine

March 5, 2010
Teen Paralyzed After Getting H1N1 Vaccine
Doctors Say Boy Developed Rare Condition

CECIL COUNTY, Md. -- A 16-year-old boy in Maryland was paralyzed from the chest down after getting the H1N1 flu vaccine at school, a doctor said.

In December, Robert Beckham lost feeling in both his legs and was rushed to Baltimore's Sinai Hospital, Baltimore station WBAL reported.

"Under very heavy treatment, not only did he not improve, he even got slightly worse," said Sinai pediatric neurologist Dr. Yuval Shafrir.

Shafrir said Robert is being treated for a rare condition called transverse mylitis in which a segment of Robert's spinal cord was destroyed by his own immune system.

Transverse mylitis is a disease that can occur after infection, but in this case, Shafrir said it was a medically unpredictable reaction to a vaccination that's being given in schools all over the country.

"The only obvious cause was the H1N1 vaccination," Shafrir said.

"I kept pestering my parents to get me this shot. I got it, and a month later, it went bad," Robert said.

"I'm still in shock from it. I can't believe that this happened to him," his mother, Belinda Beckham said.

Robert's parents are disabled and financially unable to bring him home from the hospital.

"If he had received the regular flu vaccine, the family would be able to file a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program," said attorney Clifford Shoemaker. "But because it was the swine flu program, which falls under the same bill as terrorism the family will get very little in compensation for what's happened to this child."

The family needs help making their home handicapped-accessible for Robert. There's a fundraiser this weekend at the Porters Grover Baptist Church. All donations can be made at Cecil Bank in care of Robert Beckham.

Meanwhile, Maryland Health Department officials are aware of Robert's case.

"Certainly, there are instances of adverse events -- they're very rare -- and it's something we want to monitor closely," said DHMH Deputy Secretary Fran Phillips.

While Robert Beckham's paralysis is heartbreaking, Shafrir said it shouldn't deter anyone from getting the vaccination.