WASHINGTON, D.C. – An Ashburn, Virginia woman is in the fight of her life after suffering a very rare side effect to the seasonal flu shot.
The vast majority of doctors say flu shots are safe. In this case, the FDA says they found nothing wrong with this particular batch, but sometimes there are complications.
That’s apparently what happened to Desiree Jennings, and now her life will never be the same.
At 26 years old, Desiree Jennings was the picture of health. She’s a Washington Redskins cheerleader and an avid runner. Her life changed forever on August 23 when she says she got a seasonal flu shot at a local grocery store.
“I was training for a half marathon then,” said Jennings, crying. “It just all went so fast.”
Ten days after receiving the shot, she came down with the flu. After that, her health spiraled downwards. She started passing out and had to be hospitalized twice.
“We went to an urgent care place and they wouldn’t even let her get out of my truck because she was seizing in the back so bad, so they called an ambulance immediately,” says her husband, Brendan Jennings.
Doctors at Fairfax Inova and Johns Hopkins diagnosed her with a rare neurological disorder called dystonia. They think it was caused by a severe reaction to the flu shot.
Desiree now has difficulty speaking, walking, and even eating. During an interview with FOX 5, she had several seizures. The effects are irreversible.
“The symptoms will get worse if I use my voice or walk when the brain signals are misfiring,” says Jennings.
Desiree reported her health problems to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thinking there might have been something wrong with her vaccine. We also contacted the FDA and we were told they found no problems with the particular lot of flu vaccines that Desiree received, and the agency has not received any other reports of adverse effects from this lot.
Health experts stress that overall, extreme side effects are rare.
“The flu shot is safe for the majority of the public, and as I said before, your heart goes out to someone that experiences this sort of thing– thinking that they are doing something great for their wellness and their general health, but it does happen in extremely rare cases,” says Rachel Lynch with Fairfax Inove Health System.
For Desiree, she just happened to be one of those rare cases.
“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” says Jennings.
Desiree and her husband plan to visit the Mayo Clinic in Arizona in November. They’re hoping to get more answers about this disease and how they live with it.
Desiree has received flu shots before in 2007 and 2008.