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Flu (shot) season is here. A cautionary tale.

I was having coffee this morning and looking through my favorite LinkedIn group feeds. Saw an interesting story that linked through to the New York Daily News, which held a quite common promotional message...get your flu shot. The author is known as the "Running Doc" and he has impressive credentials:

Lewis G. Maharam, MD, FACSM is one of the world’s most extensively credentialed and well-known sports health experts. Better known as Running Doc™, Maharam is author of Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running and past medical director of the NYC Marathon and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series.

Running Doc promotes flu shots and shares several indicators as to why it's a worthy investment to get one. But, a ways into the "don't do it" disclaimers, Running Doc states,

"- People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine."

I truly wish this alert for Guillain-Barre was somewhat more prominent. It's not just about those who had GBS, it's about those who might be at risk. Yes, it's 1 in 100,000...but I was one of the victims.

Like most good citizens, I went to a local flu shot event and had my injection. Within several days, my vision was blurred and my body ached. Then, my limbs stopped working. One spinal tap later we knew that I had contracted GBS. This is a strange malady in that no one knows what triggers it, but it's a terrible auto-immune dysfunction. Your body goes a bit nuts and chews all the myelin sheathes off one's nerves. In a practical sense, it's a total short circuiting of the body.

I was a complete...full paralysis and loss of breathing. Months to recover. It was a $175,000 event in 1993; I would suggest it's a $500,000 event today. How will your health care insurance play out on that? I needed 13 plasmapheresis (blood change) treatments, they are now about $25,000 each. I continue to read GBS patient threads; it has been reported some insurance policies will not cover the treatments.

This is a serious matter. Flu shots can be advantageous for many, but a death sentence for a few. I'm not opposed to the those who choose flu shots, but we should also understand the risk.


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