- They always tell you that it is one in a million...but
statistics don't matter if you are that 'one in a million.' For 20 years,
doctors did not link the whooping cough vaccinations with brain damage
but now talks have started to discuss compensation for children damaged
by the vaccines intended to prevent harm. Iain Laing spoke to one mother
whose son suffered disabling consequences following a vaccination. Like
every mother, Ella Stephenson wanted to do all she could to protect her
baby from diseases. She trusted her doctor's advice and, along with every
other mother she knew, took her 11-month-old son Ian for a whooping cough
jab to keep him healthy.
- But within seconds of him receiving the injection she
knew something had gone wrong.
- "His eyes were rolling, he was waving his arms around
and then for days after that he was very pale and quiet. Then every few
weeks he would have a fit," said Ella, of Tanfield, County Durham.
- "He got worse. For five months he was just apathetic.
He just lay in his cot. The doctors did not know what was wrong. They said
it would pass.
- ''At first I believed he would recover. You have to."
- But Ian did not get better. The vaccination left him
severely brain-damaged and epileptic. He was never able to talk, walk easily
or feed himself.
- He died last month, aged 43. An inquest found his death
was a direct result of the disabilities caused by the jab.
- It confirmed what Ella, 69, had known since the vaccination,
but for years doctors did not accept there were side-effects of inoculations
in some youngsters.
- "At first I took him to the doctor and he said
it was just teething.
- "He had been healthy before and because we were
living in the East End of London then and there were many diseases around
our doctor advised us to get him inoculated.
- "My husband Ken had his doubts. It was quite new
then. But I thought it would be safe.
- "I went to the hospital and the paediatrician thought
it was something which would pass. I knew it was the vaccination because
it had happened so immediately.
- "We didn't know until there was more research and
we read about other children with the same problems.
- "They always tell you it is only one in a million
but statistics don't matter if you are that one in a million."
- Unlike every other mother, Ella is pleased she survived
her only child.
- "I knew it would happen sometime. But it was a shock
when it did. I had just taken him his breakfast and I found him dead,"
- "I am relieved he died before I did. I never wanted
him to be an orphan and have to go into a nursing home. He would have suffered
from being alone. He would have been so unhappy. But I wished he had lived
a little bit longer."
- Ian was one of hundreds of children born since 1956 for
whom preventative injections had far more shattering consequences than
the diseases they were intended to repel.
- It was 20 years before the medical profession and the
Government confirmed the risks of injecting children with certain vaccines.
And now, another 20 years down the line, the Government has just opened
talks with the giant pharmaceutical companies which make vaccines to negotiate
compensation for the parents of children whose lives have been wrecked
- If the current talks are successful it will be the first
time drug companies have directly helped the children who suffered brain
damage as a result of being injected with their products.
- The cost of caring for a disabled relative 24-hours a
day is a high one for parents, financially as well as emotionally, and
it is hoped the new compensation deal will give parents the respite help
- For librarian Ella and her college principal husband,
who died three years ago, the severity of Ian's disability meant he could
not be left alone.
- Luckily, they could afford carers to watch Ian for the
few hours a day they were away and the couple have never had to spend any
of the £10,000 compensation they won in 1978.
- But when Ian was aged 15, doctors said he would only
live another 10 years and the couple lived with the fear he may die at
- "Before the vaccination he was beginning to say
words like mamma and dadda. Later he could only recognise some words
like bath or garden. But he could not speak.
- "He would clap his hands if he wanted anything.
He could sometimes walk a little way on his own. But he was very cautious.
Most of the time he would just sit quietly or play with his toys. He was
happy. He would always be smiling. But the brain-damage was very severe.
- "He needed a lot of care. We needed to be near in
case he had a fit. My husband bought a flat near Beamish Adult Education
College, where he worked, so he could be near him.
- "We also paid for carers to come and look after
him when we worked.
- "We could take him to a day centre sometimes so
we could go to the shops. And we had to leave him in hospital for a few
days when I went back to Finland to visit my parents. But that was not
often. I did not like to leave him."
- Ella has never been bitter about what happened to her
son but she does believe more should be done to help other parents in the
- "It is very difficult when you do not know what
is wrong with your child. Now the Government knows and they are giving
- "But the companies who make profits from selling
vaccines should help too and more should be done so parents know the risk."
- SIGHTINGS HOMEPAGE
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