Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement, Part 4

Please note: When this post first went live, Lilly was still alive and doing OK. Lilly ultimately died from her adverse vaccine reaction (and illness and side-effects of treatment) on December 17, 2013. We spent 23 months and nearly $31,000 fighting to save her. We lost. 

At long last, I give you part four (of five) posts that tell the story of our quest to get financial help from the company that manufactured the rabies vaccine Lilly received January 23, 2012. Following several days of being as factual, unemotional, and undramatic as possible – considering the circumstances – allow me, won’t you, to rant?

As we noted yesterday, two legal release clauses are the main reasons I declined the adverse vaccine reaction financial settlement offer. One required me to give up my right to free speech. The other held me legally liable for things other people said and did in response to our case.

This legal document dealt me an emotional blow similar to the day, while still hospitalized and fighting for her life, that Lilly began having seizures.

That’s not hyperbole. Truly, when I received this letter and settlement offer, I felt sick … because here is the thing, once the adverse vaccine reaction happened, there wasn’t anything I could do but cope.

This legal document, however, felt painfully deliberate. I felt that it was absolutely designed to protect the company – not me, not my dog, not your dog.

I felt victimized all over again.

It’s important to know that I didn’t begin this blog when this crisis began. I’ve been a professional writer for 20+ years now. I’ve always written about medical situations my dogs encounter in a variety of outlets, including this blog – Cody’s cancer, Ginko’s bad knees, Penelope’s kidney disease. Champion of My Heart, an award-winning dog blog, launched in April 2007 long before this adverse vaccine reaction became an issue.

After seeking clarification from the vaccine company veterinarian in charge of our case, who in turn sought details from the company lawyers, it became clear to me that agreeing to this one-sided legal settlement offer meant the blog would die.

In what universe can I write a blog designed to be a “real-time memoir” without being able to write about something that nearly killed Lilly?

The answer is this: I can’t.

And, what about long-held plans for a book? Forget it.

So, I refused to sign the agreement and turned down the money.

Money, mind you, that even my family veterinarian who gave Lilly the ill-fated vaccine called “hush money.”

I am unhushable. I won’t be shushed. I won’t be paid off. I won’t be quiet.

Yes, what happened to Lilly is very, VERY rare, but it does happen. And, if a girl like me didn’t know it was possible, how are others supposed to know, if I don’t tell the story?

[See the earlier rant … What I didn’t know and when I didn’t know it.]

The day the official adverse vaccine reaction financial settlement offer came via email, our family veterinarian called, practically squealing with delight. You see, in nearly 30 years of practice she had “never heard of a vaccine company offering money.”

Now, we know why. The money comes with strings attached, and anyone who takes it cannot say a word.

When our veterinarian and I hashed through the details of the agreement together on the phone, she mused about how me taking the settlement might seem to all of you.

“I think they’ll see it as a sellout,” she told me. “I don’t know you that well in your professional life, but I don’t see you taking this money.”

Agreed. So, let’s add to the list. I’m unhushable, and I’m not a sellout.

However, I’m also NOT an anti-vaccine crusader because there are real consequences to shunning vaccines entirely.

Do I support greater vaccine research that will lead to longer time intervals between boosters? Yes.

Do I think we sometimes over-vaccinate pets? Yes.

Do I think titer testing is a viable option? Yes and no. It needs to be better, more accessible, and more affordable.

Will I ever vaccinate Lilly again? Hell no! Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I don’t think you should vaccinate your pets.

Of course, I consulted with my attorney about this adverse vaccine reaction settlement offer. He told me not to sign it, but he said if it had been his dog, he would sign it because he doesn’t care about telling the story. He’d happily take the money since the veterinary bills have become truly staggering – quickly approaching $10,000, with no end in sight.

Most of the staff at our regular veterinary hospital also said they would take the money. They were astounded that I did not.

As for me, I care more about this dog than words can convey. She has been my constant companion through some tough times, including having essentially everyone who is important to me get dangerously sick / terminally ill in the last 4 years.

I will not sit down. I will not shut up. I will tell this story through to its rightful conclusion.

Lilly’s prognosis is good, but it’s hard to believe that when she suffers relapses and major setbacks, including new paralysis-like symptoms that have not abated in nearly 2 weeks.

When I’m too optimistic, our veterinary neurologist says, “We’re getting there.” When I’m too pessimistic, he says, “We’re still OK.”

Most days, I believe him. Some days, I don’t. Today is one of those days.

***

If you are new to our story, it’s important to know that Lilly developed a rare and serious adverse vaccine reaction called meningoencephalomyelitis / meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and lining of the brain and spinal cord) after receiving a rabies vaccine January 23, 2012. You’ll find answers to adverse vaccine reaction frequently asked questions in this earlier 5-part FAQ series. Those answers include how our veterinary neurologist concluded that Lilly’s illness was vaccine induced.

***

Here are links to all 5 parts of this Adverse Vaccine Reaction Financial Settlement series of posts:

Part 1 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/09/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-1/

Part 2 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/10/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-2/

Part 3 –https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/11/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-3/

Part 4 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/12/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-4/

Part 5 – https://championofmyheart.com/2012/07/13/adverse-vaccine-reaction-financial-settlement-part-5/

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I’m a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles … and, of course, all things pet related.

I don’t just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Heather - July 20, 2012

I wouldn’t be quiet either. Lilly’s story needs to be heard.
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Donna Hull - July 16, 2012

After what Lilly (and you) have been through, you deserve to rant. But, this post isn’t a rant, you’re just telling it like it is. Good for you for standing by your ethics and beliefs. I’m proud to know you.
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Connie - July 13, 2012

You are right that it is hush money. But there is nothing wrong with taking ‘hush money’ if that is a decision you can live with. Some people need it to be over or they need the money. You are in a great position where you can decline and continue to pursue this.

I had a kitty who died from VAS. Unfortunately I didn’t feel it was traceable to one vaccine or one manufacturer so I didn’t pursue it as much as I would like to. Like you I am still a firm believer in vaccines but I think a LOT more research needs to be done and in the mean time the risks absolutely need to be spelled out to people. I hate how they are considered as innocuous as aspirin, and VAS is not even discussed. Heck routine reactions such as lethargy are often not even mentioned.

There are several of you out there who are able to make a real difference, and I couldn’t support you more.
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    Roxanne Hawn - July 13, 2012

    Excellent point, Connie. Indeed, as my friends like to joke … “Your mileage may vary.” Every family needs to make their own decision in these situations. I by NO MEANS want to say that everyone should turn down such offers or that those who accept them are somehow behaving “badly.”

    And, yes, I’m am thankful that I (a) have the space on credit cards to pay for Lilly’s care and (b) was in a position where I could turn down the money.

    It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve found ways to make it work.

Hilary - July 13, 2012

I’m just catching up with the last two parts of your series. This one made me tear up–it’s so important for you to tell the story and I’m thrilled at your convictions, but sick about the settlement offer because the company KNOWS they won’t have to pay out.

And the other reason I’m teary-eyed is because I know how much you love love love Lilly and Ginko, and would do anything to help them through their life. And Lilly’s journey has truly been so emotional to read–happy, excited, upset, sad, and everything else in between. Your courage to write about all the ups and downs honestly has been cathartic for me as well. I love reading this blog, partly for information about what happens to her medically and why–I have changed some of the things I do with Luna because I think about what you’ve said re Lilly.

As for titers, I have gotten them for years because of both of my dogs’ reactions to vaccines. However, I do get rabies because of the legal aspect, yet Luna gets sick for days after her shot, and I swear, it causes some mental disturbance. It takes her about a month to recover. My titers cost about $55 each, but it’s worth it to me. I will now think about a rabies titer…

Sorry this is so long. xoxo

    Roxanne Hawn - July 13, 2012

    Thanks, Hilary. So do you pay $55 per titer test … like rabies $55, parvo $55, distemper $55 … or is that one test for all titers.

Vera Marie Badertscher - July 13, 2012

Of course I agree that you should not have taken the money and applaud your integrity. Of course the staff at the hospital said they would have taken the money–they aren’t writers so they would have nothing to lose. But I would have called in my own lawyer and entered into negotiations. An offer is just an offer. Their attorneys are indeed there to protect their company–that’s their job. So you need someone on your side to protect your interests. And it might surprise everyone to find there is an acceptable meeting place in the middle that would not require you to compromise your principles. (Like you don’t NAME the company–that’s really big.)
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Irene - July 12, 2012

In no way is this a rant, Roxanne. You are a real advocate for Lilly and their owners.
Irene

Sam - July 12, 2012

I always worry about giving meds to my pets of any kind – my Golden Cisco went blind and suffered seizures from her valley fever medicine – a rare side effect nobody thought to tell us about. I’m with you!

Sam
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Saoirse - July 12, 2012

My brain has little to say, because my heart is overflowing with emotions. Love for you and Lilly, resonance of my own love for my furry boy, and just utter fathomless respect for what you do and who you are. Most especially for who you are. I can’t even convey in words what it means to know you and to see even a glimpse of your story these past 4 years. If ever I had a wish for one person in the world to have that unexpected boon show up in their world, it would be you.

Sheryl - July 12, 2012

Bravo, Roxanne. You acted with courage and integrity and that will take you much farther than hush money will.

Brette Sember - July 12, 2012

Way to go. What a hard decision this is and I totally support what you’re doing. The people who said they would take the money are not writing a blog and hopefully writing a book that has to do with this, so it is a completely different situation.
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Kim Thornton - July 12, 2012

I’m interested in how much titers cost at your vet. At mine, titers are $55 (vaccines are $18). Another vet asked him how he was able to price titers so low and he said he just negotiates for a volume discount. So does $55 seem low or high to people here, and how much do your vets charge? (It seems “reasonable” to me, here in Southern Cal, where vet expenses can be high.)

And great blog post!

Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi - July 12, 2012

Aside from anything else, how could you possibly sign a document taking on legal responsibility for what OTHER people say or do? That would be madness.
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Merr - July 12, 2012

Step by step you are finding your way – and leading others who may need to know about the same thing, who go through this with their loving pet – through this. When you move through life with integrity, the next-steps and answers are clear, as you are finding.
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Evelyn Schumacher - July 12, 2012

What an amazing story. Thank you for deciding to share it, thus giving up your right to receive financial compensation to help with your vet bills. That took a lot of guts as I am sure the money was needed.

Ingrid King - July 12, 2012

Bravo, Roxanne!

After reading your series of posts on the financial settlement aspect, it feels to me that even if someone is not a writer, even if someone doesn’t feel strongly that they need to share the story with others, the two clauses technically prohibit you from even talking about what happened. And I simply can’t see how anyone could go through what you and Lilly are going through without being able to talk about it, and getting support from others.

I’m glad you chose not to take the money. You’re still living this story each and every day, but maye someday, when Lilly is completely well again and this is just a bad memory, this can be a book all on its own. In the meantime, thank you for sharing your story with the world, and maybe preventing even one other pet owner from having to go through what you’re going through.
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Alisa Bowman - July 12, 2012

You are so strong. What courage and integrity. So proud to know you.
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Jennifer Nelson - July 12, 2012

Thanks for telling the story, Rox. I’m interested if filing a lawsuit is an option to sue them for at least the diagnostic fees, if not more, on your terms without silencing you?

Jennifer Nelson
http://www.byjennifernelson.com

    Hilda - July 13, 2012

    My understanding is that it’s very difficult — if not impossible — to be successful in a pet-related lawsuit. The reason is, in the eyes of the law, a pet is property. It’s value is determined by how much it would cost to “replace” it (i.e. get a new dog). I read a piece written by a lawyer about this not too long ago.

Alexandra - July 12, 2012

Wow! Good for you. Your post made me wonder how many people do accept and why this type of thing is allowed? Especially after reading “Most of the staff at our regular veterinary hospital also said they would take the money. They were astounded that I did not.” Yikes!

I feel so upset for you and Lilly.
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    Linda Messina - July 12, 2012

    These companies always throw out low offers which are insulting. Their first offer, second offer and third offers are small incremental amounts to test your ‘buy’ level. Why do most people cave in on the second and certainly third offer? Because what they don’t know is that the offending company already has an amount in their corporate mind that is significantly higher than what they’ve been throwing out. You’ve got to play poker with these offending companies and never never show your hand. Don’t get nervous about walking away from offending offers.
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Jackie Bouchard - July 12, 2012

I think it’s pretty sad and disgusting really that corporations can pay people money (money that those people are rightfully owed) but then be able to keep them quiet about what happened. We need to know that these things are happening to avoid being in the same situation. I don’t get how that’s a good “business model” – hush up the bad news, and just pay off the people who are adversely affected. I really don’t get it.

Rant away, Roxanne!! People need to know this info.
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KB - July 12, 2012

Yes, stand up for what you believe in – and I’m glad that you threw that money right back at them. I hope (and maybe even pray – I’ve been resorting to that lately) that Lilly starts recovering from her setback soon.

If you ever have time, I’d be interested to hear you expand on your thoughts on titers. I ask about them every time vaccine time rolls around here, and my vet points out how very unaffordable they are. Our conversation stops there. Are they reliable? Maybe it’s worth the money if they are.
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Cathy - July 12, 2012

I am so grateful for all you’ve shared on your blog, Roxanne, and I admire you for not taking the dough and running.

Between you and fearfuldogs.com (which I read about on your site), I have learned so much about ways to help the fearful dog I adopted last year. Thank you for being here…and for staying here through all of this.

I hope and pray your Lilly will return to you in full.

Jodi - July 12, 2012

As a writer of a blog with goals similar to your own, I wouldn’t take the money either.

Some things are more important than money and I believe my dogs are one of them.

Rock on sister!!
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