The Flu Shot Can Leave You Paralyzed
A man is raising a warning flag after he contracted a rare
and debilitating condition linked to the flu shot that left
him paralyzed for almost five months.
Within two weeks of getting his annual flu shot in 2007, Richard
Ryan, 44, went from being happy and healthy to being in excruciating
At first, Ryan thought he had injured his back, and he checked
into the local hospital emergency room.
But Ryan was also suffering some numbness, and when a neurologist
tested his reflexes, he found Ryan had none, he said.
"The doctor asked me what was going on in my life. And
as soon as I said I was feeling ill after getting a flu shot,
he said, 'Stop right there, I know what you have,'" Ryan
Guillain-Barré Syndrome Linked To Vaccine
The neurologist diagnosed Ryan with Guillain-Barré syndrome,
an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system.
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the chance
of developing that particular disease from a flu shot is one
in a million, but the odds probably didn't matter much to Ryan
after contracting the illness.
As Ryan learned, the consequences can be severe. By the time
the emergency room exam was over, he was unable to get up. He
spent the next 10 weeks recovering in hospital, including three
weeks in intensive care, barely able to breathe or eat for himself.
"My face was paralyzed. I had no feeling inside my mouth.
I couldn't feel my tongue. My left eye wouldn't close so it
had to be taped shut to sleep," he said.
The illness progressed into a lifelong condition known as chronic
inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), and a year
later he remains heavily medicated, unable to work, and has
Although the disease is in remission, he is not expected to
make a full recovery, and the chronic condition could return
at any point in the future.
Worth The Risk?
Now Ryan is concerned that public health officials are promoting
the flu vaccine while most people are not fully aware of the
For his part, Ryan maintains that he's a good example of the
fact that the benefits of the vaccination don't always outweigh
"I think if people knew how serious the illness is, they would
think twice about the flu shot," he said.