A teenage girl left paralysed after taking the HPV vaccine five years ago is now battling for therapy which could prevent her from committing suicide, her family say.
Ruby Shallom, 18, developed FND — functional neurological disorder — after she received three jabs for vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) in 2014.
She gradually lost feeling in her whole body and had become paralysed by 2016 — where she was wheelchair-bound and couldn’t move anything but her left arm.
The girl from Bracknell, who used to enjoy playing cricket and riding horses, suffers from chronic pain and fatigue, and had to relearn how to walk short distances.
Now at her physically fittest since the triple vaccinations in 2014, Ruby can walk up to 20 metres in one spurt without aid or stopping.
Though she made a steady bodily recovery, her mental health took a nosedive this year — and she became suicidal as she fought intense bouts of depression.
She was admitted to Prospect Park Hospital in Reading, an NHS mental health clinic, and was treated by a psychiatrist for two weeks.
But as she tried to take her own life, the Shalloms paid for Ruby’s transferral to Priory Hospital Woking, a private facility which provides treatment as well as therapy.
The money runs out on Friday, however, and Ruby will be discharged from Priory, where she might be readmitted to Prospect Park or just taken home.
Her family are now appealing for the public to make donations as they raise money to ensure that Ruby has continued private treatment which could save her life.
Ruby said: “I feel low all the time — I’m not coping at the moment.
“It all changed this January, which is when I was physically at my best in years — and I guess the trauma of everything I’ve been through has caught up with me.
“It gets really bad in the evenings, when I’m on my own and the group therapy sessions are over — and I can’t say for sure why that is.
“There’s no particular trigger for it really — it just seems to be around five or six o’clock and then gradually gets worse.
“I feel so agitated, and shaky — I can’t keep still, I’m on edge.
“I feel so trapped that I think it would be easier to just send it all, but I don’t even really have a choice because I have a family to think about.
“I can’t even kill myself, and yet I feel like I could because I don’t see a way out.”
Ruby was given a triple vaccination in two month intervals during 2014, to insure against the risk of contracting cervical cancer caused by an HPV infection.
Over the following two years, she became extremely sick, losing her appetite and fainting repeatedly while she battled debilitating chronic headaches and fatigue.
She also experienced intense abdominal and chest pains in this period.
Ruby noticed that she had difficulties with walking from December 2015 as she dragged her feet behind her — and a month later, she was using crutches.
In May 2016, her condition deteriorated further as she became so weak she couldn’t walk at all — and developed total numbness from the waist down.
She began to display gastrointestinal symptoms and swollen glands too, and she was rushed to Frimley Park Hospital where she was diagnosed with incontinence.
Ruby was hospitalised for six weeks, and woke up one morning with a crushing pain in her right arm which left her incapable of even wiggling her fingers.
By the end of the day, she couldn’t that arm at all — and as her back muscles gave away, the paralysis spread through her whole body save her left arm.
Too weak to support herself on a zimmer frame, Ruby became wheelchair-bound.
She was diagnosed with FND, a catch-all phrase referring to neurological symptoms which affect the functioning of the body, at St George’s Hospital in July 2016.
To help detox her body from the vaccine, Aron and Nicola paid around £2,400 for Ruby to have homeopathic treatment at the Clinic of Natural Therapies during 2017 — because of which, Ruby thinks, she can now walk distances of up to 20 metres.
But with every step forward she physically made, she took one mental step back — and in March, Ruby was admitted to Prospect Park Hospital because she had grown depressed and suicidal from long-term emotional trauma.
Ruby was transferred to Priory Hospital Woking earlier this month for 19 nights, where she’s received extensive group and one-on-one therapy.
Her parents have been able to afford the expensive private clinic, which charges around £790 a night, thanks to their health insurance with WPA.
Their £15,000 quota runs out this Friday, however, and Ruby will be discharged on Saturday unless enough money can be raised to prolong her treatment in Woking.
Lou Dossett, a family friend who used to teach Ruby when she attended St Joseph’s Primary School, set up a crowdfunding page on 19 April, and has raised nearly £2,200 of a £10,000 target from public contributions.
But time is running out — and Ruby’s family fear that she will continue self-harming unless the Shalloms can find money to keep her in Woking for another fortnight.
The Shalloms believe that Ruby developed FND because she had the triple HPV vaccination — a claim backed by various pressure groups including Time For Action and AHVID, the UK Association of HPV Vaccine Injured Daughters.
A spokesperson for AHVID said that, of around 20 million in total, 600 families are registered with the group who have injured daughters following the HPV jab.
AHVID hopes to encourage affected families to bring these issues to their local MPs and start a national debate that ends with money being made available for research to establish the causal link between HPV vaccination and later disabilities.
Their statement read: “The primary focus of this organisation is to assure our members that they are no longer on their own and by working together we can achieve so much more. In our opinion, these vaccines have caused many serious health issues which need immediate investigation.”
But the issue is hotly debated in the scientific community — even by the specialist who met with Ruby and her mother at St George’s Hospital in July 2016.
In a letter dated 14 July, the expert refuted any causal link, and explained — though Ruby’s condition was real and not imagined — her central nervous system was intact and not damaged after the triple HPV vaccination.
Any evidence that her FND had been caused by the HPV vaccinations, he said, would have lead to a physical rewiring of her body’s central nervous system.
The specialist also speculated that FND has in the past been caused by severe emotional stress, and suggested her sister Evie’s long-term battle with hodgkin lymphoma — a cancer for which she’s had four rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from her brother Oliver — could have been an underlying trigger.
He said: “Nicola expressed an understandable concern that the HPV vaccine might have damaged her nervous system in some way leading to her current symptoms.
“I explained that this could not be an explanation for the type of weakness and test results that she has because if damage had occurred to the nervous system by any cause, it would not be the case that muscle activation could occur with different examination manoeuvres, nor that her test results would be normal as they are.
“We discussed that historically functional symptoms have been viewed, perhaps rather simplistically, as reactions to psychological stress and difficulty.
“We did discuss of course the fact that her sister has been very unwell with lymphoma and continues to have ongoing health problems in this regard.”
Ruby, whose depression becomes more pronounced at nighttime, said it would mean the world to her and her family if she could stay on in a private capacity.
Her father Aron said: “She’s not well enough to come home — and we don’t want to put her on the NHS, which won’t keep her safe and not simply make her better.
“We’ve been through some tough times — we’re dealing with this as best as we can.”
Ruby said: “At Priory, there’s lots of therapy and everyone has been lovely.
“I have made lots of friends with mental illness too — just talking to people has been therapeutic and done more good than constant medication.
“I can’t have any of that without the treatment as well as the therapy offered by Priory because without the therapy I just can’t get better.
“This is my only hope — it’d mean so much to me if I stayed here, and it would only need to be for a few more weeks, I would imagine.
“At Prospect Park, I think I would only get worse — and I don’t really know what it would be like if I just went home, or if I can even go home.
“If I went home, I could still be a danger to myself, and I would have to have a carer come in two or three times a day just to check up on me.
“It would mean that I would get better and that’s good because my family needs me, and because I have a future — apparently.”