Organized medicine can’t buy everyone

When Luis and Angie Vasquez came home from the hospital with their third child Stephanie Kate Vasquez on April 15, 1998, a day after she was born, they were elated. She was a beautiful, healthy girl weighing in at seven pounds, two ounces. They did everything the doctor told them to do. Stephanie was given the recommended hepatitis B vaccine, the vitamin K shot and had erythromycin applied to her tender newborn eyes prior to being discharged from the hospital. Despite this, Stephanie took well to breastfeeding and was well bonded with her mom, dad, brother and sister.

At her six-week check up, Stephanie had not gained as much weight as the average baby according to the formula-based chart doctors’ use in determining normal weight gain. She was prescribed Enfamil formula and Angie was told to give Stephanie Enfamil every other feeding.

At eight weeks of age, on June 16, 1998, Stephanie went into the pediatrician’s office for her series of “immunizations.” She was administered Tetrammune, a new diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and haemophilus influenza (Hib) combo vaccine by Lederle; oral polio vaccine and a second hepatitis B vaccine. Stephanie became sick with flu-like symptoms including an abnormally high temperature, fussiness and excessive sleepiness seven days after the shots. Angie nursed and comforted her newborn daughter as any good mom would, giving her baby Tylenol as prescribed, but nothing would sooth her.

On June 24, 1998, Angie got up in the morning to check on Stephanie who had been particularly fussy the previous evening. Angie noticed that she was cold and clammy. She immediately picked her daughter up and noticed that she was not breathing. She screamed, “she’s dead!” and ran down the hall to call 911. Then she proceeded to administer CPR until the police and ambulance got there. Angie rode with the officer to the police station with Stephanie while Luis stayed with the other two children. When they arrived the officer stood by Angie’s side while she asked what was wrong with her daughter and if she was okay. The nurse from the hospital turned to her and coldly said, “Your baby is dead.”

Reality set in and Angie began to scream and cry uncontrollably. The police began to question both Angie and Luis since the cause of death had not yet been determined. After all, this is not necessarily a normal reaction and could have been a sign of hysteria or mental instability or even “shaken baby syndrome.”

When the medical personnel and county demanded that a thorough autopsy be performed, Angie protested, not wanting her baby to be cut apart like someone would dissect an animal. Since she had no legal say in the matter, she insisted on having a complete and thorough analysis as to the cause of death and demanded a full copy of the autopsy report.

The pathologist determined that the cause of death was interstitial pneumonia so Angie thought this is what the death certificate stated. A month later as Angie was putting away Stephanie’s things, she came across Stephanie’s death certificate and it stated haemophilus influenza type B as the cause of death. So Angie decided to go to the library and look these two diseases up in a medical dictionary. When she discovered that interstitial pneumonia is Hib disease, she decided to review Stephanie’s shot records. Then she saw that Stephanie was vaccinated against Hib so she wondered how in the world Stephanie could have possibly died of a disease she had been “immunized” against. Angie called numerous medical professionals for answers and got nowhere. Finally one nurse told her it is rare for a child to contract the disease from the vaccine but she had heard of this happening before.

Angie’s mind was reeling. How can this be? The vaccine is supposed to prevent this disease! When she tried to get a corroborating opinion, the other medical professionals denied the possibility of an association, saying that she must have contracted it from her siblings, despite the fact that the rest of the family had not been sick prior to or during the time that Stephanie Kate was sick.

After searching the internet, she found out about the National Vaccine Information Center and the existence of the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). She decided to report Stephanie’s death to VAERS since her doctor refused to do so. She found out that the lot number of Tetrammune administered to Stephanie had been reported to VAERS 34 times and was listed as causing one other death.

Since 1998 it has been pulled from the market and it is now recommended that Hib and DPT shots be administered at different times to maximize “effectiveness.” To add insult to injury, another death certificate was created that lists SIDS as being the cause of Stephanie’s death.

Angie decided that she needed to hire an attorney and file her case with the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP).

She contacted the National Vaccine Information Center and asked if they knew of an attorney in her area that was familiar with the VICP. They immediately gave her Curtis Webb’s number, an attorney in Twin Falls, Idaho, who has represented numerous parents in similar cases. Since Angie lives in Burley, Idaho, 45 miles from Twin Falls, she was thankful to get the recommendation and immediately called his office. This happened two months after Stephanie’s death and Angie was doggedly determined to avenge her daughter’s wrongful death through the VCIP. She had a vision of using the money to educate other parents regarding the real dangers of vaccines and the fact that the risks DO outweigh any imagined benefits.

Curtis Webb answered the phone, heard the first part of her story and then asked where she lived. As soon as he found out her location and address, he told her to stay put since he would be right over. True to his word, he was there in 20 minutes. Curtis Webb turned out to be a Godsend and went right to work getting every detailed medical record and autopsy report he could get his hands on. The claim was filed and pediatrician Dr. Edward Yazbak agreed to be their expert witness after Angie searched the internet in desperation looking for one. At the end of September 2001, Curtis Webb finally got a complete autopsy report and it just happened to be an additional six pages more than the one Angie received three years earlier. The autopsy report came just days before Angie and Curtis flew to Massachusetts for the VICP hearing.

The hearing was held in a ritzy hotel and was called a “Masters Court.” Master French, a woman, presided as the judge. Robert Daum, the inventor of Tetrammune, was the VICP and Dept. of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) expert witness. Mr. Menowski was the attorney for HHS. When the 34 cases reported to VAERS regarding Tetrammune was brought to Daum’s attention, he passed it off as a coincidence. When the judge addressed Daum point blank with the question of “What kind of reactions do occur with Tetrammune?” he repeatedly told the judge that there are no known adverse reactions. She finally said, “Don’t you tell me there are no known reactions. This is what I do for a living and I see case after case of adverse reactions from these vaccines.”

Finally the judge took both attorneys aside and told Menowski that he needs to settle this now since he does not want this case to set a precedent. One issue they were squabbling over is the type of haemophilus influenza Stephanie had contracted. There are apparently many different strains and despite Angie’s pleas to make sure the autopsy was thorough, the pathologist did not list the specific type of haemophilus influenza on the report. She was told that if the pathologist had listed the specific strain and it coincided with the strain in Tetrammune, then she would be entitled to a larger settlement.

After the hearing, Curtis Webb did not hear from Menowski, and so he finally scheduled another hearing for December 12. The day before Webb was scheduled to fly out for the second hearing, Menowski called with an offer to settle. Curtis told Angie they might want a gag order as part of the settlement agreement. She is not interested since she plans on using whatever amount of money she gets to further her ability to educate other parents on the dangers of vaccines. This is to her credit since we know of two other women in this state who signed gag orders in order to get the maximum amount offered by the VICP.

Although Angie waited three years for her day in court, she has not been sitting idle on this issue. She has been a force for the local public health district and the area doctors to contend with. She spends all her spare time educating other parents by writing letters to the editor, being interviewed on local radio stations, and going to their local health department and school functions passing out anti-vaccination literature. She wants parents to know they have a choice. After all, the laws in the state of Idaho protect parent’s rights to abstain from medical experimentation for themselves and their children. To find out more about vaccines and your right to legal exemptions in Idaho, visit Angie’s website.

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