My story begins in 1961. As a child I received the normal vaccinations that children receive. One of them was the measles vaccination. Shortly after having the vaccine my right eyelid began to droop. They told my mother I had a “cold in my eye.” I was not born with this drooping eyelid. When I was 13 I had surgery to tie the muscle in my eye so it would not droop anymore. To this day, if I look down my eyelid stays open. It caused me great teasing at school and affected my confidence and self-esteem.
In 1979 I had to have an MMR vaccine for entrance to Auburn University and had no problem with it. In 1989 there was a measles outbreak at Auburn and my sister was attending the University. My overprotective mother, who is now deceased, insisted I receive the measles shot. Being the “good daughter” I went to get the measles shot at the same practice I had received my first measles shot as an infant. In other words, they could have looked at my file and told me I did not need another measles shot. Within a day, I developed a rash on my arm, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and could hardly walk. After days of trying to figure out what was wrong with me, they diagnosed me with post vaccinal autoimmune brainstem encephalopathy. Basically my brain had swelled and my immune system was compromised. They put me on steroids immediately which probably saved my life. After neuropsychological testing, I was sent to a Neurologist in Anniston, Alabama who put me on Paxil and Klonopin. This was the start of my depression and anxiety cycle. They told me I was one in a million to react to a measles shot and that I did not produce serotonin in my brain anymore and would be on antidepressants the rest of my life. Not only that, but I had short term memory loss and ADD.
In the early 2000’s I applied for assistance from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program through the federal government. I was awarded $100,000. That may sound like a lot, but over a lifetime it was a drop in the bucket. Since 1989 I have spent thousands of dollars on psychiatrists and psychologists and written myself reminder notes to remember things. I have been hospitalized 4 times for major depression and have attempted suicide twice.
My last major depression was in the winter of 2010 and 2011. Out of desperation, my husband, sister and psychiatrist found a women’s recovery center in Seymour, Tennessee called Brookhaven Retreat. I went kicking and screaming and spent 2 months there. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I wanted to give up on myself and quit. Just give up!!! But, the dedicated counselor would not give up on me. Through a good talking to and medication changes from a phenomenal psychiatrist, I started seeing the tables turn. I could not concentrate on things and my short term memory was terrible. I had had ECT 7 times prior, which affects your short term memory as well. The psychiatrist ordered neuropsychological testing again and it showed 20-25% short term memory loss and an IQ of 80. This was very upsetting and the rest of the report was pretty dismal.
They attributed my low scores to the encephalitis I had suffered in 1989 and to the recent ECT’s I had received. The Doctor who administered the test suggested I be put on a low dose of Aricept (5 mg.) It was like a light bulb was turned on. I feel better than I've felt in 22 years. My short term memory is better. My cognition is faster and my depression is gone. I have a zest for life like I've never had before. It’s miraculous! Along with the medications, I was given intense group therapy sessions, multiple self-help classes, life application lessons and tons of love and understanding from the 40+ employees at Brookhaven. It is a loving facility where every staff member smiles and has a hug for you. NO ONE was going to give up on pulling me out of my depression. I will be forever grateful to Jacqueline Dawes for creating such a wonderful program and employing such dedicated and top notch employees. I left there dancing and singing and plan to do so for the rest of my life. Brookhaven Retreat saved my life and gave me back my life I lost in 1989 and more. I may experience depression again, but I've been given tools and learned techniques to help keep it from taking me under. Thank you Brookhaven and Jacqueline Dawes for giving me my life back.