The journey of a Gardasil victim's mother from trusting vaccines to vaccine activist
by Tony Isaacs
Two years ago, Rosemary Mathis was pretty much your average successful working mom. She had a good job and two children she loved and enjoyed. Like millions of other parents, she also had complete trust in her family doctor. Thus, she had no qualms about following his advice to have her daughter Lauren undergo the series of Gardasil vaccinations to protect against the human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer. It was advice that would soon turn Rosemary's world upside down.
"I always trusted my doctors. I always fully trusted all vaccines. I let him give it to her and should not have done that. But I did," Rosemary said.
After Lauren's first two doses of Gardasil in August, 2008 she experienced stomach pains, headaches, and nausea. Her doctor said she had a virus which was not related to the vaccine. Then Lauren received her third and final dose of Gardasil on August 18. Less than two weeks later she was completely bedridden and Rosemary began spending her days taking Lauren to doctors for round after round of tests and treatments.
"My 13 year old missed almost her entire eighth grade year of school!" Rosemary said. "Some of her symptoms were enlarged liver, gallbladder attacks, severe nausea, chest pain, severe abdominal pain, severe headaches, brain freezes, stomach ulcer, and sensitivity to light. She became severely depressed because she could not attend school or be with her friends like a normal child."
Initially, doctors could not figure out why a 12-year old girl would have such symptoms. Ultimately, doctors settled on gall bladder problems and she was sent for surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Fortunately, the surgeon recognized that the symptoms were more than gall bladder dysfunction and did not operate.
Lauren was subsequently identified as a vaccine victim by Duke University. While Lauren was being treated for her problems, her mother Rosemary did not take the news sitting down. Instead, she began researching Gardasil and interacting with other victims' mothers. She and other mothers formed Truth About Gardasil (www.truthaboutgardasil.org) and later the non-profit SANE VAX, Inc. (www.sanevax.org) to help spread the word about Gardasil dangers. Today, Rosemary Mathis and SANE VAX are internationally known and respected, which Rosemary said is largely due to the tireless efforts of SANE VAX volunteers.
On March 12 of this year, Rosemary appeared before the FDA and presented 243 pages of data and reports about Gardasil, including the 61 deaths and over 17,000 adverse reactions reported thus far. The FDA promised to get back to the group within a month, but thus far has done little more than give assurances that the materials have been forwarded to appropriate parties for review.
As Rosemary and the group have found, FDA action on dangerous drugs can be a slow, arduous and frustrating endeavor. It took the FDA years and a death count that reached over 50,000 before finally banning Vioxx. By comparison, after 52 deaths were attributed to unintended acceleration in Toyotas, a $2 billion recall ensued.
Gardasil, a Merck vaccine targeting HPV, was given FDA fast-track approval in 2006 - a decision that surprised many since cervical cancer accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancer deaths. Merck, who also made Vioxx, claims Gardasil will save lives, though no long term studies are available yet. The question Rosemary and others want answered is: What about all the lives it is costing or destroying?
"I am afraid that Gardasil is going to be another Vioxx, and that five years from now they are going to pull it and it is going to be too late for all these girls," she said.
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