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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 pain.

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 said.

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 memory problems.

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 risks.

For his part, Ryan maintains that he's a good example of the fact that the benefits of the vaccination don't always outweigh the risks.

"I think if people knew how serious the illness is, they would think twice about the flu shot," he said.

Reference Source 104
October 29, 2008

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