HPV vaccine case study: 'Abbey is injured for life and nobody cares'
Published 06/12/2015 | 02:30
It was just before lunchtime when Abbey Colohan (14) pulled up her sleeve to get her first HPV jab at school last September.
Her parents, Lorraine and Martin, had read through the information leaflet when it landed on their kitchen table in Kells, Co Meath, a couple of days before.
Abbey's granny had breast cancer, so like most parents, her mum and dad thought, 'Wow, a cancer prevention vaccine - this is incredible.'
"We had no doubt in our minds. We trusted the HSE, so we signed the consent form - unfortunately," said Lorraine.
Fifteen minutes after receiving the vaccine, Abbey, a then first-year student, started to feel unwell. Her body stiffened, she couldn't move her arm or legs and couldn't speak. When she tried to stand, her body began to convulse. Next thing, she was on the floor and in seizure.
"It was her first ever seizure, she'd never even fainted before," said mum Lorraine.
Her parents claim that nurses in charge said Abbey's reaction was just a side effect, that it would wear off and not to "overreact".
Although Lorraine remained calm, as soon as she saw her child, her maternal instinct was to go straight to her GP.
"I always thought a bad reaction was a rash or a sick tummy. She had all her baby vaccines and there was no problem," she said.
Two days later, Abbey had a second seizure and was rushed to hospital. There, she had a third seizure in front of her mother's eyes.
"It was absolutely traumatising - her eyes rolled back, she looked like she was choking, her whole body was jerking, head to toe," she said.
Doctors couldn't definitively link her condition with the vaccine, but her MRI scan and tests for epilepsy and meningitis came back clear.
She was discharged with no medication, no diagnosis and no answers.
A year later, Abbey, a once active and energetic child, has missed 89 days of school and lives with constant pain, fatigue and random seizures.
"Her whole world has changed. Her independence is gone. She has to be with us at all times," said Lorraine. "We didn't sign up for this, our girls are not guinea pigs. We want answers from the Government and the HSE. We want a full scientific investigation," she says.