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Poway mother develops rare nerve disorder after receiving J&J vaccine

FDA warns of heightened risk of rare disorder
poway mom jj vaccine.png
Posted at 2:38 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 20:19:05-04

POWAY, Calif. (KGTV) - A Poway mother says she was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In early April, 46-year-old Kelly Francis said she received Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine.

"I got the J&J vaccine for convenience. I figured it was one shot and done,” said Francis.

Francis suffered no immediate side effects, but a week later, her feet started to hurt, and then her legs. Days later, she woke up with intense neck pain.

“After an hour, my face felt funny. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, and my face was completely frozen, droopy,” said Francis.

A trip to the hospital produced no answers. Five days later, she suffered another scary symptom.

“I was walking back to bedroom. I fell and was completely paralyzed from the waist down,” said Francis.

In mid-May, an MRI and spinal tap revealed a diagnosis, a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), where the immune system attacks nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and in extreme cases, paralysis.

“My neurologist said he believed 100% that it was from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and he was reporting it to the proper officials,” said Francis.

On Tuesday, the FDA warned of "small possible risk" and a possible link between the J&J vaccine and GBS, as scientists look into about 100 cases out of nearly 13 million doses. While health officials say the benefits outweigh the risk of the rare side effect, Francis doesn't agree.

“It not only paralyzes the person but also paralyzes your life,” said Francis.

Months later, many of her symptoms have improved, but the 46-year-old mother of a teenage boy still needs a walker, and can only eat pureed foods. Her doctors have told her the symptoms may disappear next week, but the condition could also be permanent.

While she is still pro-vaccine, she regrets her choice.

"I was angry. We were told to get this to prevent COVID, and I end up with something that has long-term consequences,” said Francis.

Francis says she has several underlying conditions, but none are associated with GBS. In the past few days, her muscle weakness has worsened and she may require blood transfusions and plasma replacement therapy.

Health officials say there aren’t any known cases of GBS associated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.