MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The CDC says COVID-19 vaccines have been a remarkable success and serious adverse reactions are rare, but a teenager from Dyer County, Tennessee is in the hospital Tuesday after being one of those rare exceptions.
Inside Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, pictures of 17-year-old Shelby Grace Allen don’t capture what’s she’s gone through in just a matter of days.
A few weeks ago, Gracie — as her family and friends call her — started noticing problems like back pain. She eventually experienced tingling in her toes when she was maid of honor in a wedding, but what really alarmed her was what happened when she was bowling.
“I’m on the bowling team in Dyer County and I noticed when I was throwing the ball, I couldn’t feel my arm and legs. So, I was freaking out,” she said.
Her parents took her to the doctor in Jackson, Tennessee. Gracie is now being treated at Le Bonheur in Memphis for a rare condition known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
“When we got in, my doctor, my P.A. told me right off the bat what she thought it was. She said you have Guillain-Barré,” she said.
Dr. Nick Hysmith, the medical director of infection prevention, explained what the condition is.
“It’s a condition where the body’s immune syndrome gets a little bit confused and targets your nerve cells and that leads to weakness,” he said.
The CDC says serious adverse reactions are extremely rare, but occasionally some vaccines can trigger GBS.
Dr. Hysmith still advises people to get the vaccine to protect themselves.
“The illness is going to cause more symptoms and is more likely to cause that issue than the vaccine itself. I would still urge people to still get the vaccine,” he said.
Gracie agrees with him, adding that people should be aware of what could happen.
“I think everybody needs to get it, if they want to. they shouldn’t be afraid of it but know what could happen if you do get it,” she said.
Grace continues to get better and was recently moved out of the intensive care unit at Le Bonheur.
She is still feeling blessed and looking forward to graduation day.
“I should be able to walk and get my diploma in March. I’ll be graduating high school. I should be able to walk on that stage and I’m determined to do that,” she said. “I definitely feel blessed. I could be in a lot worse situation than I am now. I could be dead, or I could be paralyzed.”