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A single mother-of-three became fully paralysed after getting a free flu injection at work. Kathy Watson-Jones, a hospital clerk from Greensborough in northeast Melbourne, received the vaccination on April 23 and that evening her legs started shaking and feeling like jelly. By lunchtime the next day Ms Watson-Jones was paralysed from the face down.
The 45-year-old was rushed to hospital and after a day of tests doctors told her she had contracted the incredibly rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) – a disorder that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system resulting in paralysis. ‘I thought I was going to die,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. ‘It was just so scary and quick. She is now confined to a wheelchair after contracting the incredibly rare Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). ‘I had no idea what was happening and I’d never heard of this virus.’
Doctors told her that GBS can be triggered by the flu injection but said it was incredibly uncommon. Federal Health Department figures show that 16 cases GBS have been reported to the Therapeutic Good Authority in relation to the flu injection in the past five years.
Ms Watson-Jones had never had the flu jab before but said she was advised to get it at her workplace at Northpark Private Hospital. ‘I just happened to be at work the day they were doing them,’ she said. ‘I work in the maternity ward and someone said ‘You work around kids you should have one.’ ‘I thought I’d get a cold at worst, nothing like this.’
Ms Watson-Jones spent three weeks in the acute neurological ward have routine tests on her breathing and other functions. ‘When my face got paralysed had trouble eating and talking and I couldn’t cough,’ he said. She said it was hard for her three daughters Shannon, 13, Jamie, 12, and Zoe, 10, to see their mother in such a state.
‘It’s pretty horrible, I’ve always been there and now I’m not,’ she said. ‘They’re managing very well.’
Ms Watson-Jones says she is lucky her condition ‘plateaued’ and she is slowly regaining feeling in her face and hands, but she is now confined to a wheelchair.
My face is much better than what it was, I can smile and close my eyes now which I couldn’t do,’ she said. ‘I can’t stand. I move can move my hands a bit but I can’t use my fingers or make a fist.’
Ms Watson-Jones is hoping that like 80 per cent of GBS sufferers she will make a full recovery. Ten per cent still have a small deficit and 10 per cent are left with more than that, we won’t really know,’ she said. Now Ms Watson-Jones, who must spend the next three months at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital in Kew, is undergoing hydrotherapy three times a week and physiotherapy and occupational therapy five times a week.
The local tennis club where she and her daughters are members – Norris Bank Tennis Club in Bundoora– are holding a fundraiser on Saturday and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help her raise money for medical costs.
Her three children are staying with her friend Sheridyn Moffat, who takes them to school and sports. Ms Watson-Jones’ parents visit her every day and her friends have a roster system to come feed her dinner each night. She said she was overwhelmed by the support she was receiving from her family and friends.
‘If it wasn’t for my family and friends I don’t know where I’d be.’
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