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Precaution or necessary evil?

Sarah Dixon

A few hours later, Brianna Guzman stopped breathing. Her brain began to swell and she almost lost her life.

At the hospital, doctors prodded the Guzmans about what possibly could have set their daughter into such a state of emergency.

“The only thing we did differently today was to take her for her vaccines,” said a frantic Kim Guzman.



The room went silent. The doctors had seen this before.

Brianna suffered considerable brain damage and is today still battling to make progress.



“I think this is a story that every parent should hear,” Kim Guzman said.

Necessary precaution or evil?

Many children react to vaccines every year.



“It is a strong possibility that Brianna received a “hot lot’, the term given to a particular batch of vaccine that causes an abnormal number of reactions,” Kim Guzman said.

It is believed Brianna Guzman reacted to DPT, which immunizes against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, she added.

“More than 50 children reacted to that lot with mild and severe reactions, and at least one child died,” Guzman said.

The FDA keeps record of adverse reactions, which can be easily obtained by merely applying. Details are available at the NVIC Web site http://www.909shot.com.

Had she known to research the lot number before Brianna Guzman was vaccinated, her mother said, things might have been very different.

But she didn’t know, and her doctor didn’t tell her.

In fact, the doctor didn’t even tell her she had a choice between two strands of the vaccination, one considerably more dangerous to infants than the other. The strand with which Brianna was injected is no longer even on the market.

“Initially, I was angry,” she said. “Now I just want to do the best I can for Brianna. And I want other parents to be aware of what can happen so they can make the best choices for their children.”

Did you know?

According to the National Vaccine Information Center, each year between 12,000 and 14,000 children are hospitalized, injured or killed by reactions to vaccines.

According to the NVIC, a nonprofit organization advocating reformation of the mass-vaccination system, an average healthy child in America receives as many as 34 shots before they enter kindergarten.

Many doctors tell parents, however, that reactions are so rare there is no cause to worry.

Local pediatrician Dr. Donald White has voiced this very view.

“I’ve been a pediatrician for 25 years, and I’ve never seen a serious adverse reaction, like permanent damage or death, to the immunizations,” White said.

Guzman disagrees.

Guzman said she personally knows at least 5 children in Summit and Eagle counties alone that still suffer adverse reactions to vaccines.

“I’m not saying that every doctor has treated a child who has reacted to a vaccine,” Guzman said. “But I have a hard time with doctors who refuse to even acknowledge the risks. There is no denying that risks exist, and parents simply have a right to know.”

The government-established National Vaccine Compensation Fund, financed by taxes applied to the pharmaceutical companies, aims to aid families like the Guzmans. And yet the family has had a lawsuit pending with the fund for four and a half years. Meanwhile, Brianna Guzman, who is unable to walk on her own, or to speak, has had years of therapies at great cost to her family.

And the Guzman’s haven’t seen a penny from this fund.

“You have no idea how much red tape we have to cut through,” Kim Guzman said.

The fund is said to offer “quick and easy financial relief,” she added, but for her family, it has been anything but quick or easy.

What choice do we have?

Parents concerned about vaccinations may ask the logical question of, well, what choice is there?

Vaccinations do, after all, inoculate against some of the most contagious and deadly viruses in the world.

Even Kim Guzman, despite her ordeal, admits many vaccines are imperative to the health of children.

Furthermore, most schools will not enroll a child who has not been properly immunized.

Many parents are beginning to ask how can children be protected from reactions.

“It’s hard to believe that with all the new medical technology around, they simply cannot determine what makes one child react to a vaccine and another not,” Guzman said. “Doctors can clone human cells, but not find some way to test children for reactions before they are injected with a full, possibly fatal, dosage?”

Guzman advises parents to call in a vaccine’s lot number, easily obtained by asking the pediatrician, before a needle gets anywhere near their child.

She also encourages parents to fully research the risks of vaccines, beginning with the NVIC Web site.

For most parents, however, simply not vaccinating is not a choice.

But that does not mean there are no choices.

Help for Brianna

Kim Guzman is no longer determined to bring justice to the drug companies. Nor is she set on teaching Brianna’s former pediatrician a lesson.

Now she just wants what’s best for her daughter.

She says several revolutionary therapies are available that may be able to reverse some effects of brain damage – therapies for which Brianna’s insurance has refused time and again to pay.

And with their lawsuit still pending, the Guzmans simply cannot afford to pay themselves.

One such treatment is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which the patient is treated in a chamber of pressurized oxygen. The pure gas can penetrate barriers in the brain formed at the time of reaction. Brianna Guzman participated in a cost-free study in New York several years ago in which she received several of these treatments.

“A lot of people say it’s a waste of money because the results are not dramatic, but I don’t see it that way,” Kim Guzman said. “I saw the differences, I noticed them, and that’s everything to me.”

The changes in Brianna may have been slight, but they were there.

“She would concentrate on activities for as long as eight minutes,” Guzman said. “That means a lot to us. We work very hard for such results every day, and if I think that this therapy will help her, then I am going to go after it with everything I’ve got.”

The therapies cost $200 per treatment, however, and a minimum of 100 treatments is suggested.

A plea to the community

In a community known for fund-raisers, “just one more” often gets lost in the shuffle.

But many people in the Vail Valley, upon meeting her daughter, begin to see this cause as a personal one, Kim Guzman said.

A series of fund-raisers will be held in the next few months in the hopes of raising enough money to take Brianna Guzman to California for treatments available only there and in Poland.

“Right now she has an occupational therapist, a speech therapist and goes to horseback riding therapy once a week,” Kim Guzman says. “For a small mountain town, the resources for children like Brianna are amazing.”

But there are some things Brianna can’t get in Vail, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“I personally know a child who had these treatments, and he can walk on his own now,” Guzman says. “That would be so amazing for Brianna.”

But to temporarily relocate to California would be considerably costly, as would be the treatments.

On Aug. 20, the Guzmans are holding a dinner and a silent auction at the Grouse Mountain Grill, the first in a series of events aimed at raising money for Brianna. Interested community members and businesses should contact Kim at 376-2035.

The Guzmans moved from New Jersey recently, but have found the Vail Valley to be sympathetic and supportive of Brianna’s cause.

“We just want Brianna to have every advantage available,” Guzman said. “And in our experience, once the community has learned of her ordeal, they’ve helped us work toward that same goal.”

A special delivery

Brianna, meanwhile, is about to become a “big sis.” Kim and her husband, Adolfo, are expecting their second child shortly.

And you can bet they’ll do things a bit differently this time around.

How to help

The Guzman family is holding a fund-raising dinner and silent auction Aug. 20 at the Grouse Mountain Grill in Beaver Creek. The dinner is the first in a series of fund-raisers planned for the next few months to help raise money toward treatments for 5-year-old Brianna Guzman. For more information, contact Kim at 376-2035.


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