Financial Award Given After 2-Month Vaccines Cause Catastrophic Brain Damage
Vaccine injury is certainly not rare, nor new. 23 years ago, Kim (Schirmer) Fahrion found herself in one of the most challenging predicaments no mother or parent should ever experience. Not only did her two-month old daughter, Brianna, suffer a debilitating vaccine-induce brain injury that was proven and awarded through the Office of Special Master’s vaccine court, but her husband (at the time) was mistakenly accused of shaken baby syndrome due to the brain trauma and retinol hemorrhage caused by vaccines. Kim explains Brianna’s horrific story below followed by a question and answer exchange with more details and case information.
Kim: My daughter Brianna was born November 21, 1996, a healthy 8.5 pound bundle of joy. At her two month checkup she received the whole cell DPT, HIB, and the oral polio vaccine. Eight hours later, this completely healthy baby had a massive seizure and had what is labeled “shock/collapse” syndrome. She stopped breathing and CPR was performed until the paramedics arrived and took over. She was taken to the nearest trauma center where she continued to be unresponsive, was seizing, had bi-lateral retinal hemorrhages, and had a swollen fontanel with increased intracranial pressure. She was intubated and put into a phenobarbital induced coma and we were told that she probably would not survive the night. Her CT scan showed a devastating anoxic brain injury which the attending physicians told us was the result of trauma, specifically shaken baby syndrome. I cannot explain how I was feeling at this time because it felt like some kind of an out-of-body experience. My precious little baby was hanging onto life and we were being accused of child abuse? It all felt like a horrible dream.
To keep this from being the 100 page memoir I’ve written because it’s that involved, I’ll fast forward….
Brianna survived – she has proven to be a fighter many times over. She is severely disabled, but one of the very great joys of my life. No criminal charges were pressed because there was not sufficient evidence. After a brutal, drawn out battle with DYFS, in and out of family court for a year, we were able to regain the legal custody they had taken of Brianna.
After a tumultuous eight year fight, Brianna was awarded compensation from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program fund. I thank God for this because I know what an uphill battle it is. The injury has to be a table injury, then you have to find an attorney willing to take a vaccine injury case and then the real battle begins. We had an excellent attorney who thankfully did not throw in the towel when I’m sure there were many times he would have liked to.
Brianna’s life has been filled with obstacles, but you would never know it. She is non-verbal, but definitely understands to some degree. She had been taking several steps in a gait trainer when she was younger, but multiple orthopedic surgeries have taken their toll. She’s had both hips operated on and shortly after that she refused to take steps anymore. She developed a horrific scoliosis which required a very dangerous, nine hour surgery, for which we had to go to Delaware because it was so severe, no doctor in New Jersey would touch her. Six years ago she had a five percent chance of survival when she became septic and went into septic shock. She was flown to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) and put on an ECMO machine in an effort to save her. It was not until day nine that they thought there was a slight chance she might survive. She spent three months in ICU and was labeled the “sickest child in the hospital”…and there are a lot of very sick children in CHOP, unfortunately.
I tell you all of this because through all of this, this child is smiling. I feel like there is so much to be learned from Brianna, always. But let’s not kid ourselves, she was robbed of a potentially wonderful, hopeful, joyful life – and routine, mandatory vaccinations are to blame. Period. Admittedly by OUR GOVERNMENT. I’ve asked every doctor, why her, why Brianna?? NOT ONE HAS EVER BEEN ABLE TO ANSWER. Why, because the damn science is not in. Stop saying it is. It’s offensive. If it is, then answer me. But they never will, because they can’t. I have a seventeen year old son who’s never been vaccinated. I ask the powers that be, would you have chanced it? I hardly think so. In fact, I know so. No parent in their right mind would vaccinate a second child having no idea why their first child has been devastatingly injured. It will never happen because I am now informed. Sadly, I’ve had to learn the hard way, but NO law will change this for me. I WILL NEVER COMPLY. Stop the madness and let parents call the shots, it’s enough already.
Q&A with Kim:
Q: Did Brianna have any other vaccines or shots at birth, including the Vitamin K or Hep B or anything prior to the 2-month visit?
Kim: Brianna did have the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth at one day old in the hospital after she was born.
Q: Was Brianna in good health prior to her 2-month vaccines?
Kim: Brianna was in good health leading up to her 2-month vaccines with the exception of her being admitted to the hospital when she was one week old with an undiagnosed low-grade fever. Because of her age, the pediatrician had us take her to the emergency room where they admitted her, ran a battery of tests, including a lumbar puncture.
Everything came back negative and the only thing they could really chalk it up to is that one of her ears was slightly pink, not even infected. Although we were not really satisfied with that diagnosis, we were obviously relieved. After three days she was discharged with no follow up, except seeing her pediatrician when she got home and she was fine.
Q: Can you describe her disposition, her personality, and development prior to her severe vaccine injury at 2 months?
Kim: Her disposition and development prior to the vaccine at two months old was very typical for what any two-month old would be doing. When she was discharged after that hospital stay she was in fine health. We were at the pediatrician several times after that just to make sure that nothing else was wrong and she was fine. She was holding up her head and cooing and smiling. That’s really all that they’re going to be doing by that point and she was on track.
Q: Did your doctor ever explain the full risks and informed consent for the vaccines that were administered to Brianna at her 2-month visit? Were you given any paperwork or Vaccine Information Sheets (VIS) that provided the adverse reactions to be on the lookout for or other potential vaccine injuries?
Kim: The pediatrician did not explain the full risks or informed consent for the vaccines for her 2 month visit. What she did do was let me know that worst case scenario would be that Brianna might have a fever and be irritable and if that was the case to give her some Tylenol. I did show some concern because of the fact that she had been sick seven weeks before that. So in an effort to appease me, she listened to her lungs. She was clear, all her vital signs were fine. She told me that there were no contraindications to her being vaccinated that day. I was not given any paperwork on vaccine information or adverse reactions or told to be on the lookout for any other potential injuries.
Q: It was the DPT vaccine that was causing so many debilitating injuries and deaths, that the vaccine manufacturers were being constantly sued that they went to the government to ask for help or they would stop making the vaccines…that’s the origin of the National Children Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and how the compensation fund was set up. Any thoughts on this given Brianna’s case?
Kim: So the DPT that Brianna received that day was the whole cell DPT. It was just beginning to transition into the DTaP at that time. But we were not offered the DTaP and I was not aware at the time that there was an alternative. So she received the whole cell DPT.
Q: Did the medical industry indicate that it was the DPT that was the main factor in her debilitating injuries, including her brain injury?
Kim: So the medical industry, yes, it did indicate that the DPT was the factor in her injury. While that day she received the DPT as well as the HiB and the oral polio, I have to tell you that the Hib and the oral polio (vaccines) were never mentioned. I also didn’t mention them because I never believed that they were the actual culprit. Not to say they didn’t assist in the process, but even when we would go to other doctors down the road and even when we were filing for compensation, it was always labeled a DPT injury because when we were filing for compensation, the injury has to fit a table injury according to that vaccine and it was always according to the DPT vaccine for her.
When Brianna was in the hospital after her injury because she was in the hospital for a couple months, I was still trying to figure out what caused her injuries. A nurse actually slipped me a note and asked me to read an article written in Money magazine I believe it was December 1, 1996. I finally got my hands on that and it was an article all about the DPT causing brain damage and encephalopathies and it was about a twelve page article. It was fascinating. While leading up to that article, I was just trying to make sure anything else was ruled out. That article kind of really pushed me in the direction of really going and researching the DPT.
Q: Following her survival from the anoxic brain injury and bi-lateral retinal hemorrhages, can you describe how life was for you and your family after? What a horrible situation to almost lose your child, then be accused of shaken baby syndrome! Can you describe what this was like to be added to an already devastating time?
Kim: Can I describe what life was like after her brain injury and retinal hemorrhaging? No, not really because honestly I feel like for some time after that I really was almost operating outside of myself. I know that sounds really bizarre, but there was so much going on.
We were obviously like I said accused of shaken baby syndrome. They were accusing my ex-husband, so there was a lot going on. Two days into her being in ICU, I had to hire a criminal defense attorney because I realized that they really were serious about putting the blame on my ex-husband. So we had to hire him to deal with the prosecutor’s office.
DYFS had become involved which is division of youth and family services or it was here. They really also sunk their teeth in. There was no room for consideration. They were absolutely set on the fact that Brianna was injured as a result of trauma. They would absolutely not consider anything and when I tell you I begged and pleaded with everybody to please listen to what I was saying. To please consider something else. They would not. They would constantly, publicly in the hospital, accuse us of being child abusers and just deflecting from the truth when we would ask them to look into the vaccinations.
For me to explain how I felt at the time is almost inexplainable. It was so surreal and unbelievable what was happening to us. Because while I was dealing with that, I also had no idea if Brianna was in fact going to survive. It was just a whirlwind to say the least. I was just in a fight or flight mode because I was working on adrenaline and my stomach was constantly going. So it was manifesting in us physically and obviously mentally. I kind of compartmentalized it and I kind of put it in a box because I can’t really imagine how I got through that when I think about it now. So I just did. I do have a lot of family support and they were surrounding us constantly and I think sometimes they literally kept me going.
Q: What was the perception back then from your doctor for the connection between the vaccines and her severe “shock/collapse syndrome” and debilitating brain injury?
Kim: If the doctor you’re referring to, if she was willing to make a connection between the vaccine and the quote unquote “shock collapse syndrome” – no. I only spoke to the pediatrician who administered her vaccines that day one time when Brianna was originally admitted into ICU. I told her a little bit about what was going on. It was before I even really was that aware of what was going on. She didn’t say much. She sounded extremely concerned and I’m hoping that concern was for Brianna. But I have to honest, I feel like a part of that was for herself. We never spoke again.
She never contacted me while Brianna was in the hospital to see how she was doing. I imagine it became very difficult for her. I’ll defend her in one sense. I know DYFS and the prosecutor’s office were probably breathing down her neck to get her to say that she probably believed we were capable of being child abusers, so it was a very, very tumultuous situation and I’m sure they were all over her as well. I know they were and I never heard from her again. So she made no connection, and if she did, I know nothing about it.
Q: What explanation, if any, were you given by any medical professional, expert medical witnesses from your case, or any other health professional as to why Brianna had the reaction she did to the combination of vaccines she was administered when she was 2 months old? Did anyone ever give you any answers?
Kim: I have never ever been given an explanation as to why Brianna might’ve had this reaction and trust me when I tell you I have asked that question many, many, many times to multiple doctors. I never could understand how there’s no study that ever can be done that has ever been done between all of the people that do react to see if maybe there something in common? Is there a gene? Is there something that contraindicates them? But the fact is that there has not been.
So basically, in my opinion, that is the most pertinent thing in this whole fight is that if you can’t tell me who is at risk and who is contraindicated – well then, right there to me – that is absolute proof that the science is not settled. There is not a drug that you will see advertised that doesn’t tell you who it’s contraindicated for. And to boot, we’re putting it in babies that are just here, and are tiny, and we’re doing it in multiple, multiple doses. It’s so absurd. So, no, I was never ever given an answer, and when I tell you I’ve talked to some pretty heavy-hitting doctors, neurosurgeons, neurologists that are all renowned, nobody can answer that question and I don’t believe that they ever will.
Q: What kind of therapy, resources, or support was available to you to help Brianna, if any?
Kim: I had a lot of resources and support for Brianna when she was finally discharged from the hospital. She had done some in-patient rehab in a neuro and spinal rehab center and then we did outpatient therapy there. After that point, I did a lot of therapy in my house and out of my house. She did have early intervention services and I have tons of support with family and friends. So I spent the first five years of Brianna’s life really just running around taking her to anything that I thought seemed promising and didn’t put her in school until she was five because I just knew that those early years were critical.
Q: Can you describe the 8 year process of the Special Master’s vaccine court and VICF?
Kim: The 8 year process of the Special Master’s vaccine court was tumultuous at best. It was a very, very difficult uphill battle. I did a lot of the legwork as far as getting experts on board because let’s face it, an attorney is very busy. I had a wonderful attorney. I can’t say enough about him. But Brianna is one of many cases, but of course to me she’s the one and only that matters. So I decided to do a lot of the legwork myself and really tugged at the heartstrings of some doctors who won our case. They weren’t even Brianna’s doctors, but I just wouldn’t stop. I had told them that I will go to every single neurologist or neurosurgeon in the country if I had to to make sure that she had somebody fighting for her and I would not stop. I think they realized that.
The doctor who ultimately that ended up winning our case had never even met Brianna just all of her records and scans. I begged him to do it and he ended up doing it and he’s just a wonderful person. He was unbelievable to watch, but along the way you know the lawyers for the others, for the Department of Health and Human Services really, really were just not making it easy. About halfway through, about three or four years in, they decided to switch special masters on us. They had tried along the way always to get us to just drop the case and believe me I’m sure there were many times that my attorney really considered it because it really was kind of unbelievable what they have the ability to do.
When they switched special masters, I believe that their intention was to put it into the hands of, at that time, and I’m not sure if Special Master Golkiewicz is still the head of the special masters. I believe at that time, there might have been twelve special masters that ruled in vaccine court and he was like the top special master. So our case was transferred to him, and I believe the reason for that was (my attorney had mentioned this. It’s not my own feeling) that if we had lost and appealed nobody could really win on appeal with Special Master Golkiewicz because he was the top guy. It ended up working against them because we won and they didn’t appeal. So there were a lot of twists and turns — I couldn’t even tell you how many there were along the way. What I will tell you is that this is not an easy case to go forward with, to get an attorney to fight for, and most certainly not to win.
Q: You shared that Brianna is non-verbal, but understands some communication. What is she able to do, if anything? What is she interested in, enjoys, and appreciates doing?
Kim: Brianna is a very, very happy girl and she really just enjoys being a part of our household. I have a very, very busy house. I have a teenage son and a lot of his friends are always over here. My family is very close by – they are always around. She really enjoys just being in like social atmospheres. She’s always laughing and smiling. She enjoys just kind of hanging out with us. We have a pool. She really loves the pool. She’s very compliant too. She has never been difficult when it came to having therapy. Everybody that’s around her – she’s just a joy.
Q: Can you share a “day in the life” of Brianna at 23 years old? What help and support does Brianna need on a daily basis? Is your family handling her needs or do you also need to hire external help?
Kim: On a daily basis, Brianna needs help with all activities of daily living. I handle the majority of her needs. My husband and my son live in the house with me and they are a huge, huge help for me. My sister, my mother, and my brother are very close by and they are also always helping out. I also have hired external help. I have a nurse and a “sitter” who actually works in the school that Brianna had attended up until the age of 21. It’s a special-needs school and she’s been with me for about probably eight years. Between the nurse and the sitter, they are invaluable to me.
Q: It sounds like from what you described that Brianna has been through numerous health challenges and surgeries. Does she need to get anything additional? Or have the surgeries resolved some of the issues?
Kim: Hopefully Brianna does not need to get anything additionally surgical or otherwise. She’s had quite a few orthopedic surgeries and I’m really really hopeful that we’re pretty much done with that. The last one she had done she had a very, very severe scoliosis and she was operated on about eight years ago. Since then orthopedically she seems to be doing ok. She’s not medically fragile – even with everything she’s been through she’s pretty healthy.
Q: What in your opinion is the most critical issue surrounding vaccines that you’re concerned about?
Kim: In my opinion, the most critical issues surrounding vaccines that I’m concerned about is just — I just don’t believe they’re safe. I don’t trust the government. I don’t trust the pharmaceutical companies. I don’t trust the vaccines. I have every reason obviously to feel that way. The ingredients in these vaccines clearly are frightening. I think that goes without debate and I think the fact that more and more just keep coming out just shows a lot of people that it’s really just more about the money. I mean I think it’s clear that a lot of these vaccines are just absolutely not necessary, if not all of them. I’ve become educated obviously the hard way, but I just have an absolute fear of every ingredient and every vaccine.
Q: Describe the health of your unvaccinated second child?
Kim: The health of my son who is not vaccinated is near to perfect. He is a perfectly healthy functioning 17-year-old. He feels very strongly about never being vaccinated. He has stated very clearly how he feels because he realizes that technically at 18 he could make his own decision. He would never be vaccinated. He wrote a very impassioned letter when the all the bill issues started presenting itself in New Jersey to the senators stating how he felt about vaccines. And the fact that he feels like his sister was robbed of the life that she deserves, and rightfully so, and that he feels like he’s living that life and he will not be vaccinated.
Q: What is your approach to health and wellness now?
Kim: My approach to health and wellness now is I believe in a mix between Eastern and Western Medicine. My children are pretty healthy and I do try to go to natural remedies when I can. I am not opposed to, if Brianna is sick, and needs an antibiotic if she has a bacterial infection. Of course I will consider that, but I do not run to the doctor for every ailment. I have some degree of skepticism at this point for the medical field just in general.
Q: What do you wish you knew about vaccines before you had children?
Kim: I wish I had met me. I tend to change the way people look at vaccinating their children. It’s not really the role I had ever wanted, but it’s the role that I definitely have. I am not particularly pushy. I go by more of a lead by example and inform people about what happened. Usually they come back to me. They want to know more. I’m fully vaccinated and clearly you cannot have a reaction to being vaccinated. But I also know that you have this potential as well. So I think that people just need to be informed and make their own decisions. I have said on multiple occasions had I met me before I had Brianna, I don’t think I would have vaccinated her.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Kim: We’re not alone in the accusation of shaken baby syndrome when it was a vaccine injury. I had been involved for years after this first all happened with different families trying to help them and guide them in some form of direction when it does happen. I can tell you that I know for sure that there are people sitting in jail for murder for shaken baby syndrome for children who didn’t survive when it’s a vaccine reaction.
So it’s just an additional horrible disservice and unjust issue that happens with this that a lot of people aren’t aware of. It adds a whole other horrific layer to this already horrific situation. I can’t imagine the life that those people are living and there are people out there fighting for those people. A few attorneys that I have been in touch with many years ago and a few organizations thank God that are really working to help release them from prison. But I can imagine that most of them probably will not. I think that the decision about our case is really very enlightening to that whole scenario. People need to know that there’s even more that could happen with this.
Q: Would you like to disclose what the VICF award was? (If not, that’s ok of course – I am just curious since I covered a few Special Master cases like this, but the others were infant deaths. One was granted $250K and the other $137,500.)
Kim: As far as what her award was, I will say this. When Brianna’s case was awarded and was negotiated for about a year before they came up with her lifecare plan and her award for damages. It was that involved. She receives a yearly annuity. It is managed by a medical fund. I have no access to her money. So in the life care plan, it’s deemed for the rest of her life what the money will pay for. And they do their best to anticipate what the needs will be. Of course it’s not always going to be exact because who knows what twists and turns are going to come. But for the most part, all of her medical needs that are related to the vaccine, which all of them are, all covered. There’s a cap yearly. I don’t even know if I’ve ever reached the yearly cap. I don’t know exactly what it is because the way it was designed, it will be difficult to say.
But what I can tell you is this. When her award came through and I believe it was 2008, when it was when the damages were finalized, I was told at that time, if Brianna is to live to a “normal” lifespan age that she will have been paid out over $35 million dollars. It’s hard to explain that number because it’s not something I see or touch. I do everything through the medical fund, but I will tell you when a lot of people tell me that doesn’t change what happened. No, it doesn’t. And that was never my feeling, but I was very, very in debt when Brianna was coming out of the hospital when she was young. I did a lot with her and we had a lot of medical bills mounting. We had to pay for the criminal defense attorney. I clearly wasn’t working. I lived in hospitals with her and never left. So we were hit hard financially too and I have to say that on top of everything else is really very, very difficult.
I’m extremely grateful that she was awarded compensation. I sometimes have some form of an almost like a survivor’s guilt for all the people that I know and I know too many who couldn’t even get a lawyer to take their case or much less even win. At least I do have that in my favor and I know how lucky we are to have been granted that award. And for her to have won, and I don’t ever forget that, and I don’t ever take that for granted.