Doncaster NHS healthcare worker paralysed after Covid jab urges others still to get vaccine
A Doncaster Royal Infirmary healthcare assistant who is ‘100% certain’ a Covid jab has left her paralysed is still urging others to take the vaccine, despite her life changing overnight.
Fit and healthy Christine Barker, 56, now gets out of breath, is in constant pain and has been off work for nearly six months after being diagnosed with a condition called transverse myelitis – an inflammation of the spinal cord which can cause pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems and bladder and bowel dysfunction.
Her ‘eight million to one’ diagnosis came just a few days after receiving her first Covid vaccine – a Pfizer jab - and she is convinced it is responsible.
Doctors have not yet been able to prove a definitive link between the two, but haven’t ruled one out either – and despite a bleak outlook, Christine from Intake says she has no regrets and would still urge people to get their jab against coronavirus.
She said: “I’m not an anti-vaxxer at all and despite what’s happened, I’d still tell people to go and get their vaccine.
"People need to be aware that things can go wrong. I’ve worked in the NHS for more than 35 years and this has turned my life upside down overnight.
"But people should still take the jab if they are offered it.”
Christine, who works in the minor injuries unit at DRI, first began experiencing problems shortly after receiving her first jab on New Year’s Eve last year.
“I started feeling pain in my arm and chest,” she said. “I got in touch with the GP and she diagnosed chest inflammation.”
But over the following days and weeks, the pain got worse and Christine of Abercorn Road, Intake, ended up calling 999 shortly before St Valentine’s Day as she was in so much agony.
"It was absolutely excruciating,” she said. “The pain was like nothing else.”
Her colleagues at the hospital she has worked at since 1985 diagnosed the same – but when she returned home, she noticed that her feet appeared to be drooping – and she found herself tripping over more frequently.
"I lost all mobility in my legs,” she said. “I couldn’t move my arms. I couldn’t even hold onto things.”
"They thought it might have been Multiple Sclerosis but then they ruled that out. That’s when I started to think it must be connected to the vaccine.”
Christine, who had no underlying health conditions prior to the jab and who doesn’t drink, smoke or is overweight, says being diagnosed with transverse myelitis after the jab is ‘an eight million to one chance.’ It is not clear at this stage whether she will recover from the condition.
She said: “I did some research and saw that there might be a link. I think it was a case of my body saying ‘I don’t like that.
"No one has been able to say definitively at this stage whether it is connected, but I’m 100% certain it is.
"They can’t say it is – but on the same hand, they can’t say it isn’t either.
"Before the jab I had never had a day off in years. I’ve worked all the way through the coronavirus and was one of the few people in our department who didn’t take any time off or end up being diagnosed with Covid.
"It seems a bit ironic that its looks like the jab that’s caused me all the problems.”
There have been other cases of Covid jabs being linked to transverse myelitis but tests and further investigations are underway to determine a link.
Christine says she now has to walk with the aid of a stick, gets breathless with the slighest physical activity and is unable to carry out simple household tasks, with husband Neville, also a health worker, helping to care for her.
She has been left unable to hold a knife and fork, drive her car, struggles to get dressed and suffers from severe fatigue.
"Life has totally changed,” she said. “It is so frustrating. No one seems to know if I will make a full recovery or not.
"I just want to get back to work and being out and about and active like I used to be.”
Christine now faces a series of ongoing medical appointments, investigations and medications to help develop a better understanding of her condition.
But despite her ongoing ordeal, she says she is still telling her friends and relatives to get vaccinated.
"I would tell anyone to have it,” she added. “I had it and my body didn’t like it. People need to know there’s always risks attached to having a vaccine.
"It is just one of those things.
"I’m not anti-vaxx at all and people should have them.
"If you get any pain or side effects, please ring your GP urgently and tell them.”
However, she admits she is now wary of taking a second jab and said: “I don’t know if I am mentally prepared for that following what’s happened after the first.
“It makes me wonder how I’d react to a second jab because I might be OK, but there’s also no guarantee it wouldn’t happen again and make things worse.
"So I’m in a bit of a no man’s land really.
"People just need to be aware that there is a chance things like this can happen and to be aware of that,” she added.
What is transverse myelitis?
Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. This neurological disorder often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibres (myelin).
Transverse myelitis interrupts the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body. This can cause pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems, or bladder and bowel dysfunction.
There are many different causes of transverse myelitis, including infections and immune system disorders that attack the body's tissues. It could also be caused by other myelin disorders, such as multiple sclerosis. Other conditions, such as a stroke of the spinal cord, are often confused with transverse myelitis, and these conditions require different treatment approaches.
Treatment for transverse myelitis includes medications and rehabilitative therapy. Most people with transverse myelitis recover at least partially. Those with severe attacks sometimes are left with major disabilities.