Siobhan from Galway describes what life has been like for her daughter in the 5 years since she received one shot of Gardasil. 

I'm writing this story of my daughter's experience of Gardasil vaccination from my perspective as her mother and carer. Savannah received the vaccination in 2010, almost 5 years ago, in her first year of secondary school. I had my reservations about her getting it as she had the BCG the previous year in national school and the wound oozed and took ages to heal, left a scar and her feeling slightly unwell. She got shingles the following month and started to feel generally unwell and looked tired and not her usual self.

The day she got the Gardasil vaccination, she came home that evening complaining of a pain in her whole arm  where the vaccination was given, was very pale, had pain in her stomach, felt sick and very tired. The following days the symptoms persisted with her becoming extremely constipated with stomach pains and feeling very unwell, tired and sick.

I took her to my doctor and she said she had gastritis and gave her PPI inhibitors for 1 week. All the foods she once enjoyed were reacting to her system and giving her a negative reaction. She started to lose weight very quickly but was eating constantly. Her appetite was insatiable yet she was wasting away before my eyes. Her whole composure was off. Her skin was grey and she got acne on her forehead. Her whole personality changed from happy chirpy upbeat Savannah to tired, quiet, gloomy, feeling unwell and distracted.

We went back to the doctor again over my concerns of her weight loss and insisted it be investigated. She had all the blood tests and all came back normal bar one which was done after all came back normal. She was found positive for Epstein Barr virus but explained that she did not have those symptoms at all. When I mentioned Gardasil vaccination as the beginning of her problems, my doctor was unsympathetic and defended the system.

I insisted on seeing a paediatrician specialist at this point, an endocrinologist. I went privately as I was spending many nights and days scouring the internet looking for an answer and I wanted her pain and deterioration to stop. All her test came back normal including an MRI. Nothing showed up. Meanwhile I was watching my healthy daughter fade away before my eyes, suffering silently, struggling to cope with her lethargy and tiredness. We tried different diets, gluten free, dairy free, carbohydrate free. Her muscle mass was wasting away. No one in medical profession could explain the problem but I as her mother, I know my daughter. I know her and who she is.

She changed immediately after this vaccination in body , mind and spirit. I'm 100% certain on that. My doctor told me that Epstein Barr virus take about 3 years to exit the body at the most and to try to accept the condition and to get rest, eat well. If you were to ask my daughter how she feels today, she would tell you she has become used to feeling crap and some days are better than others. I worry about her all the time. She is never well and refreshed. She is never energized and clear minded like she used to be.

She did regain her weight very rapidly over her junior cert summer trip to the Gaelteacht. In her first week she put on a stone weight and I was inwardly delighted as this was my most worrying observation. After the 3rd week she had gained another stone weight and looked slightly overweight and puffed out. She got very noticeable stretch marks on her thighs. Her symptoms improved and she remarked she felt the virus had left her. Overall she has mostly bad days looking washed out and grey, tired all the time but trying to be upbeat and cope, hating her weight and never satisfied nutritionally. She has just completed her leaving cert and she began getting symptoms of tiredness and not feeling well . She says she feels the virus returning again. I’m worried. Her most important years she has struggled through and now she is displaying these symptoms again which will affect her future in college. I have come to learn to cope with her condition and accept she has changed but I will never stop looking for answers.

She only got one shot of Gardasil thankfully. I was considering giving her a second shot as per the drug schedule but I contacted a senior manager of Galway West HSE for advice on whether I should or not. His words were that if it was his daughter and she got a reaction he would not give it to her and that he was in disagreement with the need for it at all.


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