‘’I am able to do things I haven’t done in two years. I can pick up my grandchildren again.”
In February 2016, Kathy did as many do to prepare for winter, got a preventative pneumonia shot. A few days after the injection, however, she was unable to open her right hand and had substantial pain in her fingers, upper arm and shoulder. At the time, Kathy had no idea about the source of these issues. She began searching for causes of this unrelenting discomfort and engaged with a series of caregivers looking for solutions. It was a couple of years later when she discovered that her condition could have stemmed from her pneumonia shot.
Kathy’s condition, shoulder injury related to vaccine administration, or SIRVA, is caused by a vaccine injected too high up on the arm. When this occurs, the needle intended to go into the deltoid muscle of the arm goes too deep and into the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that functions as a lubricant between muscles and tendons, or into the rotator cuff tendons or underlying bone. Due to unintentional and incorrect placement of the injection, Kathy’s shoulder hurt a lot more than may be expected after receiving a vaccine shot, and her pain was only getting worse.
Kathy and her husband, a fourth-generation beekeeper, had lived a bucolic life in Lake County, California. The couple enjoyed raising, breeding and showing Arabian horses, producing honey, mentoring other beekeepers and educating school children on bee pollination. Kathy also made artisanal granola in her kitchen, sold it commercially and shared her nurturing home with her 16 grandchildren.
Unable to continue her beloved farming activities due to right arm pain and weakness, her doctors, who were unaware of SIRVA, referred her to a neurosurgeon to investigate her cervical spine. After an MRI, Kathy was sent to the Bodor Clinic for a nerve test in early 2018. Dr. Marko Bodor, who discovered SIRVA in 2007, administered a cortisone injection, effective for two prior patients with the issue, and referred her to physical therapy. Kathy’s pain persisted, especially at night, and limited her ability to raise her arm overhead and lift over five pounds.
Dr. Bodor turned to the Tenex device, developed by colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, to identify the location of the deposited vaccine, wash out the fluid and remove portions of diseased tendon. Originally designed to remove cataracts, the Tenex device is well suited for ultra-minimally invasive procedures, using ultrasound guidance instead of opening up the shoulder or inserting cameras and tubes inside. The challenge was that it had never been done before for SIRVA and as the vaccine is invisible, it made locating both the damaged tendon and the fluid difficult. Informed of the challenges, Kathy was ready to be the first patient!
The operation was performed on August 9, 2019. The following day, Kathy felt increased mobility and less pain. At the two-week follow-up, Kathy’s shoulder disability, which had been at 60 on a scale of 100 for two years, was down to 10, then to 0 one month after the procedure, and it has been successfully resolved. Since Kathy’s Tenex procedure, Dr. Bodor has treated four other patients, all of whom experienced positive outcomes.
Kathy reports ‘’I am able to do things I haven’t done in two years. I can pick up my grandchildren again.”
The Napa Medical Research Foundation is partnering with Dr. Bodor to track SIRVA patient outcomes. The research will be published and accessible to the medical community, providing a solution to the number one vaccine-related injury reported to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program of the US Government.
For additional information on SIRVA, please read the following: