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Desiree Jennings controversy

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In October 2009, media reported that 25-year-old American Desiree Jennings had developed a rare, debilitating neurological condition after a seasonal influenza vaccine injection. A TV report on her case became a viral video online, and anti-vaccination group Generation Rescue adopted her case, referring her to a controversial doctor who reportedly cured her with chelation therapy. However, there is no evidence that the flu shot caused her condition, and several independent neurologists reviewing the videos have stated that her symptoms were far more indicative of a psychogenic illness than of a somatic illness.

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[edit] Background

Before getting the shot, Jennings had no known health conditions and was in good physical shape, having ambitions to become a Washington Redskins cheerleader. Ten days after receiving the shot on 23 August, she developed flu-like symptoms, and after 7 September she suffered fainting spells and convulsions, and was hospitalized, first at Inova Loudoun Hospital, then at Inova Fairfax Hospital and later at Johns Hopkins Hospital. According to the local newspaper Loudoun Times-Mirror, while she saw "her primary care physician, physical therapists, speech therapists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychiatrists and a bevy of nurses ... [a]mazingly, it was her physical therapist who provided the clinical diagnosis: Dystonia."[1]

[edit] Media coverage

The story was first picked up in the Loudoun-Times Mirror on 12 October.[1] On the 13th, local Fox affiliate WTTG-TV aired a report,[2] followed on the 16th by national tabloid television magazine Inside Edition.[3] Copies of this report quickly became popular videos on YouTube,[4] with one gaining more than a million views as of 14 November.[5]

[edit] Questioning the diagnosis

Reports indicated that Jennings' symptoms were highly unusual. She could walk sideways or backwards, or jog, without any apparent difficulty – she completed an 8 km run after her story was originally aired[6] – but when attempting to walk forwards her limbs and body jerked uncontrollably and she could barely speak.[1] Her symptoms were reportedly worsened by discordant sounds, rap music or techno, but eased when listening to Coldplay.[1]

On 16 October, Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor interviewed Leigh Vinocur, an emergency medicine doctor from the University of Maryland. She stated that the head of UMMC's neurology department had called her "because a couple of movement disorder specialists had been looking at this video, and they all really feel that this is possibly psychogenic, meaning that it isn't caused from the flu, it isn't caused from the vaccine. It doesn't mean she can help herself, it doesn't mean it's voluntary, she obviously has some problems, but in fact he told me they're using it to illustrate for their neurology residents a psychogenic movement disorder."[7]

On 21 October, WTTG interviewed Dr. Stephen Grill of the the Parkinson's and Movement Disorders Center of Maryland, who agreed: "I haven't examined her, I haven't met with her or anything. But in viewing the videotapes, the way she walks does not appear to be a true dystonia. And the speech as well - it's more of a stuttering speech, which is not common in dystonia ... based upon watching the video it appears more like what we call a psychogenic movement disorder. And what this means is that the mind or the brain is sort of playing tricks on the person to bring out these movements."[8]

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation responded to inquires about the case with a statement on its website, saying in part, "Because of the concern of individuals with dystonia as to whether or not to get a flu shot because of this reported case, we have sought the opinion of dystonia experts on this case. Based on the footage that has been shared with the public, it is their unanimous consensus that this case does not appear to be dystonia."[9]

Neurologist and skeptical blogger Steven Novella wrote, "The movements and symptoms that Ms. Jennings displays on the public videos I have seen ... are not compatible with the diagnosis of dystonia, or any other movement disorder. Dystonia is one type of involuntary contraction of muscles. It can be reduced or exacerbated by certain movements or positions, and there are “task specific” dystonia, such as writer’s cramp, that come out only with certain activity. Jennings does not display the type of movements that are consistent with dystonia. Her speech and movement are, however, very suggestive of a psychogenic disorder." He criticized media reports on the case as credulous and sensationalistic.[10]

[edit] VAERS report

After the story attracted international attention, Rene Najera, a Maryland epidemiologist writing on Examiner.com, reported that the Jennings case matched an entry in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. According to the event report, "The admitting neurologist felt that there was a strong psychogenic component to the symptomology, and made a final diagnosis of weakness."[11]

[edit] Recovery

On 15 October, two days after WTTG aired their first report on Jennings, they reported that Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccine advocacy group fronted by former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, had taken up her case.[12] Generation Rescue referred her to a Dr. Rashid Buttar, a controversial osteopath[13] known for his use of questionable alternative medicine treatments,[14][15][16][17] who diagnosed her with "a number of conditions including but not limited to Acute, Viral Post Immunization Encephalopathy and Mercury Toxicity with secondary respiratory and neurological deficits."[18] Buttar gave his version of events to the Robert Scott Bell Show,[19] an alternative medicine podcast on the conspiracy-minded[20] Republic Broadcasting Network.

"She was actually seizing, having a seizure probably every forty-five to sixty seconds. There was a camera crew there, they videotaped what was going on. She was having periods of anoxia where she stopped breathing anywhere from fifteen to thirty seconds. Her progression of her pathology was so unbelievable. They had to carry her in, and I had to wrestle with whether or not we had to admit her to the hospital to stabilize her but I knew once I put her into the hospital there was no turning back, and we had to do what we could do in our controlled environment ... That was Monday morning. By noon we had her stable to the point that she was able to breathe without going into a seizure...

"She came in this morning she felt better, looked better, but still unable to talk. We continued with our treatments, and I told [her] once we got ready to hang the DMPS and the EDTA and some of the other, the MTEs that are certain IVs that we do, I told her that now the magic should start, prepared her for what I expected to happen...

"It's not just chelation but chelation was definitely a part of it ... we had to the first day stabilize her because she was in a hyper-responsive mode and so we had to stabilize her. We gave her a couple of different IVs to stimulate the lymphatics to help build her nutritional status up because I knew that she hasn't been eating. I couldn't even do an exam on her without her having seizures so, we basically prepped her, we got her ready we got her stable, and then the second day was more aggressive treatment, where we were hitting her for natural forms of antivirals in IVs - you know which one I'm talking about that's one of them - and then on top of that there was a couple of other things including the chelators, we gave her two different chelators, and then IV antioxidants. ... The best I could have hoped for yesterday, she did 20% more than that. Today, my gut told me that by Wednesday this woman will be back. I was wrong, it happened today...

"You can see the incredible progression, this woman was in such severe respiratory stridor, her bronchioles were going into spasms because of the toxicity from, part of it could be the attenuated virus, certainly some of it was the mercury, but her whole system was starting to shut down. And she told her husband she didn't think she had that much left to live. I told the president of Generation Rescue that if he hadn't gotten her to me when he did...

"Anybody who says that this woman was dealing with a psychogenic issue, it was in her head, they are– we don't even have to address it because they're just going to embarrass themselves. Because when you see the video of her when she came in, when she was seizing, when she couldn't breathe, when she was going through fifteen to thirty second lapses of– physically incapable of ventilating, anybody who says that, they will be literally laughed at. They're gonna lose any realm of respect, if they had any, and those statements are already being made all over the Internet. I was sent two different links from friends of mine that I had asked to pray that God guide me in the right manner and to help this patient as well, as best as we can ask the Creator to help and guide us. These people sent me links saying these unbelievable people are already going out, the doctors are going out there and saying that you know, this woman, it's in her head, it's this, it's that, she's faking it. ... They have to distance themselves from the truth because they know there's no way they can deal with the fallout."

Jennings has since launched a website[21] to tell her story and promote what she calls "true informed consent."[22] On 4 November she posted a video thanking her supporters, in which she shows no apparent symptoms of dystonia.[23]

[edit] Response

Dr. Steven Novella, one of the neurologists who had identified Jennings' symptoms shown in the news reports as apparently psychogenic, pointed out that he had previously written, "Jennings is now in the hands of the Generation Rescue anti-vaccine quacks. I predict that they will be able to “cure” her, because psychogenic disorders can and do spontaneously resolve. They will then claim victory for their quackery in curing a (non-existent) vaccine injury."[24] He pointed out Dr. Buttar's checkered professional history, reiterated that Jennings' symptoms were compatible with psychogenic illness, and critiqued the scientific basis of Buttar's treatments as nonsensical.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d "Column: The flu, a shot to the system". Loudoun Times. http://www.loudountimes.com/news/2009/oct/12/column-flu-shot-system/. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  2. ^ Claudia Coffey (2009-08-31). "Woman Disabled by Flu Shot Reaction". Myfoxdc.com. http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/health/101309_woman_disabled_by_flu_shot_reaction_dystonia. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  3. ^ "Woman Says Flu Shot Triggered Rare Neurological Disorder". Inside Edition. 2009-10-16. http://www.insideedition.com/storyprint.aspx?SpecialReportID=3525. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  4. ^ "Desiree Jennings's Story Causes Flu Shot Controversy". Inside Edition. 2009-10-23. http://www.insideedition.com/storyprint.aspx?SpecialReportID=3553. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  5. ^ 19 oktober 2009. "Washington Redskins Cheerleader Seriously Crippled After Being Vaccinated". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh5F5wP8RdU. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  6. ^ John Henrehan (2009-01-26). "Disabled Woman Completes 8K Desiree Jennings a Redskins Cheerleader suffers from dystonia". Myfoxdc.com. http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/101709_Disabled_Woman_Completes_8K. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  7. ^ "Flu Shot Fears". FOXNews.com. 2009-10-16. http://www.foxnews.com/search-results/m/26952743/flu-shot-fears.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  8. ^ "Desiree Jennings: Is it Dystonia? Dr. Stephen Grill explains". Myfoxdc.com. http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/health/102109_desiree_jennings_dystonia_explained. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  9. ^ "Dystonia Medical Research Foundation". Dystonia-foundation.org. http://www.dystonia-foundation.org/pages/dystonia___flu_vaccine/569.php. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  10. ^ Steven Novella (2009-10-30). "The Dystonia Flu-Shot Case". NeuroLogica Blog. http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1152. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  11. ^ Rene Najera. "[www.examiner.com/x-13791-Baltimore-Disease-Prevention-Examiner~y2009m11d4-Records-show-case-of-dystonia-is-psychogenic-and-not-related-to-flu-vaccine Records show case of dystonia is psychogenic and not related to flu vaccine]". Examiner.com. www.examiner.com/x-13791-Baltimore-Disease-Prevention-Examiner~y2009m11d4-Records-show-case-of-dystonia-is-psychogenic-and-not-related-to-flu-vaccine. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  12. ^ Claudia Coffey (2009-08-31). "Celebs Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey's Foundation Reaches Out to Desiree Jennings, Woman Disabled by Reaction to Flu Shot". Myfoxdc.com. http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/local/101509_celebs_reach_out_to_desiree_jennings_flu_shot_reaction. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  13. ^ "Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research - Meet the Providers - Dr. Rashid Buttar". Drbuttar.com. http://www.drbuttar.com/meetproviders.php. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  14. ^ "Alternative doctor to get new hearing". CharlotteObserver.com. 2009-01-31. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/breaking/story/507975.html. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  15. ^ http://glsuite.ncmedboard.org/DataTier/Documents/Repository/0/0/5/9/df8fd9ba-c3da-4f0f-9338-0291be76dd7e.pdf
  16. ^ Garloch, Karen (2009-09-25). "Huntersville physician faces revised charges of unprofessional conduct". CharlotteObserver.com. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/local/story/967718.html. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  17. ^ "Doctor treating flu shot patient could lose license". NewsChannel 36. 2009-11-06. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33695348/ns/local_news-local_news/. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  18. ^ "“NFL Cheerleader Disabled by 2009 Flu Shot On Road to Recovery” « Desiree Jennings Blog". Desireejennings.com. 2009-11-04. http://www.desireejennings.com/blog/?p=8. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  19. ^ "The Robert Scott Bell Show Podcast". Askrsb.podbean.com. http://askrsb.podbean.com/. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  20. ^ "Bestselling Anti-Obama Fabulist Appears On White Supremacist Radio Show | Hatewatch | Southern Poverty Law Center". Splcenter.org. http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2008/08/13/bestselling-anti-obama-fabulist-appears-on-white-supremacist-radio-show/. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  21. ^ "Welcome". Desiree Jennings. http://www.desireejennings.com/index.php. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  22. ^ "The Cause". Desiree Jennings. 2009-10-13. http://www.desireejennings.com/thecause.php. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  23. ^ 5 november 2009 (2009-11-05). "Desiree Jennings Update 10-29-2009". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD1BAxVnFdc. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  24. ^ Steven Novella (2009-11-06). "Well That Didn’t Take Long – Another Dystonia Case Follow Up". NeuroLogica Blog. http://www.theness.com/neurologicablog/?p=1195. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 

[edit] External links