In an interview with the Irish Examiner, a Co. Cork mother and daughter describe the last 4 years, starting the day Roisin received her third shot of Gardasil.
Roisin Heelan's mother Una found her daughter lying on the floor one afternoon screaming with pains in her legs. Headaches and back pain are now Roisin’s most constant and difficult symptoms. The symptoms started with a headache on May 10, 2011 — the day that she received her third shot of the Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine.
Roisin Heelan from Co Cork, was in second year, she was an A student, a competitive boxer, a GAA enthusiast, popular, sociable, and happy.
Constant, chronic headaches quickly became a fact of life. Sometimes they became so acute that she could not get out of bed, and they often lasted for 10 days consecutively. That summer she experienced her second severe symptom of acute leg pain. Una Heelan found her daughter lying on the floor one afternoon screaming with pains in her legs.
Roisin, now 18, said headaches and back pain are her most constant and difficult symptoms, but the full list of symptoms that she has experienced since May 2011 takes up an entire A4 page.
Roisin started falling asleep in school, her school work deteriorated, and she had memory loss. “Her neurological system and immune system were hugely affected,” said her mum Una. “She couldn’t concentrate and she was always sick, picking up every bug. She had rarely ever been sick before. She had been a really healthy girl.
“Someone had to stay with her all the time because she’d get black outs, and she became so weak that she could fall anytime.” Roisin also experienced breathing problems, a fast heartbeat, chest pain, panic attacks, constant chronic pain, epileptic-type seizures, dizziness and vomiting. She’s now in pain and fatigued every day, sometimes she does not have the strength to write or open a bottle.
Her symptoms were so constant that she missed a year and a half of school, and she could not sit her Leaving Cert. With tenacity and some home tuition she managed to complete the State exams this year, but she had to drop from six honours subjects and one pass, to four pass and three honours. She was a candidate for over 500 points.
“My friends are still shocked, they couldn’t believe it because they got the vaccine too, but now other girls in my area are reporting similar symptoms to mine,” said Roisin, who did not receive any other vaccines in secondary school.
“Since May 2011 it’s been a downhill spiral. There are days that are very hard for her. We don’t know if down the line the pain or fatigue will go away completely,” said Una.
Roisin has applied for social work and dental nursing on her CAO, although she had planned to study psychology. “We don’t know if she’ll be well enough to take a college place in September. “Four years is a long time to be in pain, and Roisin doesn’t have the social life her friends do,” said Una.
“It’s hard going out, being in pain the whole time, I have to bring pain killing medication with me. “Sometimes I have to go to south doc and get injections in my back because no medicine works,” said Roisin.
See full Irish Examiner article here