A CrossFit lover was left paralysed from the waist down after having the flu vaccine.
Amaris Carlin, 27, from New York, was offered the jab in September 2017 through her job as a substitute teacher.
Just eight hours later, she lost feeling in one of her legs, which doctors put down to a pinched nerve from her time in the gym.
When she was unable to walk three days later, Ms Carlin was rushed back to hospital and finally diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) – a rare side effect of having a vaccine.
She then spent nine days on IV drugs and oxygen, with doctors warning her lungs would have shut down if she had not been so active.
Although Ms Carlin was forced to move back in with her parents and relearn how to walk, the ordeal motivated her to retrain as a doctor so she could help others in need.
Amaris Carlin was left paralysed from the waist down after the flu vaccine landed her in intensive care. Pictured before the ordeal, the CrossFit lover has since been told her fitness is what stopped her lungs from shutting down when she developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome
Ms Carlin spent days in intensive care having IV medication to stabilise her condition, which was attacking her muscles and left her temporarily paralysed from the waist down. She also required oxygen when her lung function declined to just 25 per cent of its normal volume
Surrounded by her loved ones, Ms Carlin endured a nine-day stint in intensive care before she was finally allowed to go home but then spent seven weeks in a wheelchair. Although she gradually relearned how to walk, bouts of illness over the winter caused her to relapse
Ms Carlin – who has been training with CrossFit since 2014 – accepted the flu vaccine after only ever having the jab once before eight years earlier.
Just eight hours later, in a rare side effect from having a vaccine, she lost sensation in one of her legs and took herself to an urgent care centre.
By the time she arrived, she was unable to feel either of her limbs and was sent to hospital.
After being turned away, Ms Carlin became increasingly exhausted over the next few days, with her colleagues even having to carry her to her car.
‘I had numbness and tingling in my hands, feet and legs, and there was also notable loss of sensation,’ she said.
‘I started out feeling somewhat fatigued. This turned into extreme weakness after three days.’
Back in hospital, it took a few days for doctors to diagnose her with GBS, which is recognised as a ‘very rare’ side effect to vaccines.
GBS occurs when a person’s immune system attacks the nerves that control sensation and movement.
This causes progressive paralysis that starts in the feet and moves up through the rest of the body.
Just one or two cases occur for every million flu vaccines given, data suggests. The NHS in the UK states the ‘benefits of vaccination are likely to outweigh any potential risk’, because infections such as flu are more common triggers of the condition.
While in hospital, Ms Carlin developed double vision – a sign her GBS was attacking the muscles in her eyes.
Doctors managed to stabilise her condition by giving Ms Carlin IV immunoglobin, which helps fight off infections.
Ms Carlin spent nine days in intensive care, with her lung function dropping to just 25 per cent of its usual volume.
‘It felt like I was in the middle of a really intense workout all the time,’ she said.
Doctors have credited Ms Carlin’s love of fitness (pictured left working out) for her speedy recovery but the teacher admits she cannot achieve what she could in the gym before she became unwell. She is pictured right recovering in hospital with an oxygen tube in her nose
Despite all that she endured, Ms Carlin tried to make light of her time in hospital
Ms Carlin (left) accepted the flu jab through work, having not had one for the past eight years. She is pictured right in a wheelchair following a stint in rehab to build up her strength
Once well enough to go home, Ms Carlin became determined to get back her independence.
‘However, it soon became clear that though I progressed fast, any sickness or stress would leave me bedridden for weeks,’ she said.
‘I learned this lesson the hard way as my second relapse was right before Christmas.’
In January last year, after a host of relapses, Ms Carlin moved back in with her parents.
WHAT IS GUILLAIN-BARRÉ SYNDROME?
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its nervous system.
It affects around one in 100,000 people in the UK and US.
Symptoms usually start with a tingling sensation in the leg, which may spread to the arms and upper body.
In severe cases, the person can become paralysed.
The condition can be life-threatening if it affects a person’s breathing, blood pressure or heart rate.
GBS’ cause is unknown, but it usually occurs after a viral infection. The NHS states campylobacter infections have been known to trigger GBS.
There is no cure.
Treatment focuses on restoring the nervous system.
Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
‘Not only did I lose my athletic ability, I struggled with simple tasks such as brushing my teeth by myself,’ she said.
‘I was no longer able to live with my housemates who had to work during the day and couldn’t look out for me.’
As a cruel irony, Ms Carlin caught flu in February last year, which set her back even further.
‘Because my body was already neurologically compromised, the flu caused the paralysis to return slowly and I found myself in the hospital for another two weeks, and back in rehab learning how to walk all over again,’ she said.
It was during this time Ms Carlin questioned if she would ever be her old self again.
But – 18 months on – she is finally feeling positive about the future, despite her still suffering heat sensitivity and numbness in her feet from time-to-time.
‘I’m in school full time and can’t wait for a future helping people learn how to walk again,’ she said.
‘I don’t take life for granted any more.
‘My life has so much more focus and passion, because it’s not worth it to be stuck in a rut just living for whatever fun you can have on the weekend.
‘I wake up each day, excited about what’s going to happen.’
She added: ‘To all those out there going through tough times, it might feel like you will never be able to get out of the place you are in or maybe it will take much longer than you think.
‘What matters is that you keep going when it’s hard and you don’t want to. Your life means something, even if you can’t possibly imagine what.’
With a loved one, Ms Carlin stayed positive in hospital despite her future being uncertain
Eighteen months on, she is positive about the future and back at school training to be a doctor
Ms Carlin is pictured in hospital being visited by a friend she made through CrossFit