Charlotte (Lotte) Amit never had the MMR vaccine. She suffers from hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) and her parents, Sue and Ian, thought it best not to vaccinate. But they didn't have the same doubts when they received the standard letter from the local doctor's surgery for Lotte to have the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer.
"Certainly, we were surprised to receive it because Lotte was only 15 and she definitely wasn't sexually active. I queried it and they told us it was a safeguard for the future. We had complete faith that this was for her good, and that it was safe and that the doctor knew what was in the vaccine," said Sue, of St Austell, Cornwall.
Lotte had the first two of the three-course Gardasil vaccine in the autumn of 2012. After the second jab, she started spinning her hands around for several minutes. She kept complaining of tingling in her hands and wrists. It reminded Sue of the behaviour she regularly witnessed in the special-needs children she cared for as a care agency director.
This strange behaviour lasted for only a couple of days, so Lotte was given the third and final vaccine the following year, in March 2013. Two days afterwards, the nightmare began, said Sue. Lotte would roll around on the floor for 10 minutes three or four times a day, screaming with the pain in her hands and feet. Ian and Sue gave her painkillers, but they didn't seem to help.
Lotte, who had always been a vibrant and energetic girl, suddenly became very lethargic and couldn't get out of bed, and would sleep for the entire morning. Her periods stopped abruptly.
She also developed a strange obsessive-compulsive problem: whenever anyone sniffed, she felt excruciating pain in her hands and feet. This got so bad that she often ran out of the house at all hours of the day or night, once when she was naked. The local police eventually found her hiding in some woods. "Looking back, I think some association built up when someone sniffed while she was in pain," said Sue.
Sue and Ian said it was "painfully obvious" that the HPV vaccine was to blame. They took Lotte to the family doctor who had administered the jabs. "He just told us to get on with it," said Sue. Convinced that Lotte's problems were a form of hysteria, the doctor referred her to a psychiatrist, who prescribed antianxiety drugs, including Risperdal (risperidone).
One evening, Sue was lying against Lotte's chest and noticed she had an irregular heartbeat; using a heart monitor, she realized she was skipping four beats out of every 10. Doctors at an emergency unit told them she had a systolic heart murmur, which wasn't life-threatening.
They also took her to a local homeopathic clinic, where the homeopathic toxicologist there told them that Lotte's nervous system, ovaries, kidneys and liver were damaged. He treated her for several months, and Sue noticed a big improvement in Lotte.
He also advised Lotte to start drinking spring water, as the silica in the water binds to aluminium, which was one of the ingredients of the vaccine. After drinking several litres of water every day for a few days, Lotte had her first period in a long time. "I think she has had three proper periods in two years since having the vaccine," said Sue.
Sue had to pull Lotte from school last year just three months before she was due to sit her GCSE exams, and have her home-tutored. She ended up with five low-grade GCSEs, and got a D for her science when she had been predicted a B. She started college last September, but had to leave because of her phobia of hearing people sniffing. Lotte is now studying ancient history and classical archaeology at home as a distance-learning student.
Today, Lotte, 17, is learning to cope with her phobia, and Sue says she's showing signs of some recovery, although nobody knows if she will ever fully recover or even be able to start a family of her own. "While we're extremely angry that Lotte's life was almost ruined by the Gardasil vaccine, we're just thankful she's not permanently in a wheelchair or dead, which we know has happened to too many young girls who were given the HPV vaccine, having been told it was perfectly safe."