Flu Shot Cheerleader — Tragic Illness, Or Hoax?

This story is commonly called “the flu shot cheerleader hoax” around the Internets, and I suppose that’s to be expected during a month when the Balloon Boy made a monkey out of Wolf Blitzer and about half of the planet. But I’m having trouble finding a motive for aspiring Washington Redskins cheerleader Desiree Jennings to be faking her very dramatic symptoms that she says were brought on by a flu vaccination shot.

Desiree Jennings

Jennings, a “Washington Redskins ambassador,” whatever that means, says that she got a flu shot at a Reston, Va. Safeway, and a week later developed a rare neurological condition with no cure. Jennings now has trouble walking or forming sentences; except, strangely, when she’s running. Then she seems fine. Thus the charges of a hoax, I guess.

Video of Jennings, after the jump.


“I was hoping for Lyme, praying for lupus, even Graves’ disease,” Jennings said of the time she waited while doctors looked over her case. “Unfortunately they were all ruled out.”

Finally, doctors at Johns Hopkins figured it out, diagnosing dystonia, a rare neurological condition with no cure brought on by infections, brain trauma or, as is believed in her case, reaction to medication. It causes body jerks and abnormal or repetitive movements.

“A simple conversation with two people — you and I could converse on the couch, and if the phone were to ring it would send her into a violent convulsion,” said her husband, Brendan Jennings.

Strangely enough — as she can’t walk forward five feet without stumbling — with some effort, she can perform one of her life’s passions: running. And she walks backward with ease — oddly empowering, now. After her ordeal began, “My insurance wasn’t going to pay for another hospital visit. Matter of fact, they called us as we were driving to┬áJohns Hopkins not to offer a specialist but instead to offer a hospital bed and a wheelchair for our house. I told them I wanted to know what was happening to me and that I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair.”

There are a lot of flu vaccination conspiracy theorists out there who think that flu shots actually do more harm than good. And they’re lining up to be heard on this story behind universal heath care proponents, who are claiming that Jennings isn’t getting the treatment she needs because of a lack of affordable health insurance.

Unfortunately, Jennings’ condition is getting worse; although she competed in an eight-kilometer race on Oct. 17, and finished it.

If you’d like to help Desiree, her GENERATION RESCUE web site can be found here. Be forewarned that the site links to much propaganda of the anti-flu shot variety. I suppose you can’t blame her for being the poster child for that movement, but the majority of scientific evidence seems to be in the other camp. Not that I’m a doctor or anything. Well, not since the “incident” in the Philippines.