Almost a year ago, Nov. 29, 2017, Palmer Colbert’s daycare provider sent a text message to his mother Asia that something was wrong. As Asia left work to pick up her son, she thought maybe he was having a reaction to his recent flu shot. And he was. 

Asia remembers him as dead weight, struggling to breathe. Even his inhaler wasn’t helping.

She took him to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach but after the ER gave him painkillers and asthma treatments and he still didn’t improve, they transferred him to CHKD. The diagnosis? Acute bronchiolitis and rhinovirus/enterovirus, common colds that have been linked to many AFM cases. By the next day, Palmer’s breathing was so labored that he was intubated.

However, it wouldn’t be clear to his doctors until December that he had AFM.

And shockingly (or not so shockingly), according to public health records, it’s like he never had it at all:

“The state’s disease surveillance data doesn’t show any sign of his four months at the hospital, an ordeal that, at its worst, put Palmer in intensive care, hooked up to a ventilator and feeding tube. It was then that Palmer regressed from a 20-month-old who ran, danced and was in the midst of potty training, to a boy unable to walk, sit up or say ‘ma’ and ‘dad.’

Statewide, the Virginia Department of Health recorded three cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, in 2016. But since then – including last year when Palmer was diagnosed – the agency has documented none.”1

And yet, we all know that’s just not true or even possible.

The disease “affects the nervous system, especially inflaming the gray matter of the spinal cord. That leads to muscle weakness in one or more arms and legs. It also can cause face drooping and breathing and swallowing problems.”2 Nearly every patient who contracts AFM will be hospitalized for an extended period.

There has been a spike in AFM cases since 2014 and since, nearly every-other-year there’s been a surge, with peaks in 2016 and now in 2018; the CDC is currently investigating 273 suspected cases (there are also 106 confirmed cases in 29 states). That’s a huge increase from the 33 recorded cases last year. But one of the most important questions about this increase is, “How many of them had a flu shot before developing AFM?”

There are no records.

In fact, while AFM is most assuredly happening more often it’s being under-reported.

“The reason cases may seem to be falling through the cracks is that, unlike mumps, tuberculosis, rabies, and more than 70 other diseases, AFM is not among the illnesses Virginia legally requires physicians and labs to report. That’s why the state distributed a letter to clinicians about two weeks ago, encouraging them to rapidly report AFM through a catch-all category, described as ‘unusual occurrence of disease of public health concern.’ Suspected cases are confirmed through testing.”3

Palmer is now able to breathe without oxygen assistance and eat and speak. But his left side is still weaker than his right and both of his hands are curled into fists. However, he can glide or Army crawl across the floor- all on his own. And about a month ago he started to regain trunk control; he can even sit up without an abdominal binder.

While there are no expectations for recovery in patients like Palmer, he’s made a lot of progress. It remains to be seen if he’ll ever walk again.

Doctors are perfectly aware of the fact that the flu shot can cause AFM and yet still continue to recommend that people get it. That’s right, AFM has been compared to Guillain-Barré Syndrome (where the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in the peripheral nervous system). However, questions about what exactly causes Guillain-Barré Syndrome persist. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, the disorder can rarely be triggered by surgery or immunization.

That’s correct. Vaccines can trigger Guillain-Barre.

“According to the CDC, there may be a “small increased risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) after inactivated flu vaccine.” There have been awards made in the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to individuals who have been paralyzed by GBS following vaccinations.

Any other vaccines? Yes.

Under “Post Marketing Experience” of reported adverse effects listed in the product information package insert for Merck’s live attenuated MMR II (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine, it lists GBS (under nervous system):

Encephalitis; encephalopathy; measles inclusion body encephalitis (MIBE) (see CONTRAINDICATIONS); subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE); Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS); acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM); transverse myelitis; febrile convulsions; afebrile convulsions or seizures; ataxia; polyneuritis; polyneuropathy; ocular palsies; paresthesia.

Cases of Guillain-Barré have also been reported following hepatitis B vaccinations, as well as meningococcal polysaccharide, tetanus and polio vaccinations.”4

Don’t you want to know why the government is pushing forward with this? I know I do.


  1. The Virginian Pilot
  2. The Virginian Pilot
  3. The Virginian Pilot
  4. The Vaccine Reaction