Flu Shot Woman
Her story created a national uproar. Desiree Jennings, an ambassador for the Washington Redskins cheerleading squad, claimed she developed a rare neurological disorder called dystonia after receiving a seasonal flu shot, causing dramatic spasms and slurred speech.
What made the story so startling is that her symptoms seemed to disappear when she walked backwards or ran.
Back in October 2009, Jennings and her husband told INSIDE EDITION's Les Trent they worried they'd never find a cure. But INSIDE EDITION cameras found her walking normally, playing with her dogs, going shopping, even getting behind the wheel of a car and driving!
It's hard to believe the woman INSIDE EDITION producers have been discreetly observing over the last few weeks is the same woman who contributed to the flu shot scare. INSIDE EDITION sent Les Trent to ask Jennings about her remarkable recovery.
"We've been trying to reach you and you have not been returning our phone calls," Trent told Jennings after catching up with her in a parking lot.
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said.
"It looks like you've made a complete recovery," Trent told her.
"Well, I wouldn't say a complete recovery. I still have a lot of cognitive issues," she said.
So what happened? Did Desiree Jennings really suffer a one-in-a-million reaction to the seasonal flu shot, as she says, or is it all some kind of elaborate hoax? Or is it something else entirely?
INSIDE EDITION has obtained an official report on Jennings's case by the Centers for Disease Control. It states, "The admitting neurologist felt that there was a strong psychogenic component" to her symptoms. "Psychogenic" means that there is a mental or psychological cause for her spasms.
"The dramatic symptoms of movement and speech that Miss Jennings has been displaying are certainly not a reaction to the vaccine," says Dr. Steven Novella.
Novella is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Yale who treats patients with dystonia, which what Jennings claimed she suffered from after the seasonal flu shot. He hasn't examined Jennings, but is convinced after viewing our video that her affliction is not dystonia.
"Just from looking at the video, a trained and experienced neurologist could say, 'This is not dystonia,' " he tells INSIDE EDITION.
Jennings finds the idea that her illness is all in her head ridiculous.
"Some people think it was psychogenic. Some people might even think it's a hoax," Trent told Jennings.
"I mean people are free to believe whatever they want but clearly what I've been going through, I know it's not psychogenic and it's not a hoax," she said.
And something else that surprised INSIDE EDITION producers? Jennings is now speaking with a foreign accent she never had before.
"I'm from Ohio. I should not be talking like this," she told Trent.
"It sounds like you have an Australian accent," Trent observed.
"Yeah, I've heard Australian, British, but it essentially comes down to the inability to pronounce words," she explained.
"There's no way a flu shot can cause someone's accent to change. Absolutely not," Dr. Novella says.
So how does Jennings explain her recovery? She credited a doctor, an alternative practitioner named Rashid Buttar. He claims he reversed many of her symptoms in less than 48 hours using controversial therapies, including a hyperbaric chamber and intravenous injections of nutrients and synthetic amino acids.
But Buttar has come under fire for his practices. The North Carolina medical board claims he engaged in "unprofessional conduct" for charging cancer patients "exorbitant fees" for "unproven" and "ineffective" treatments, some of the very same treatments Jennings received. He denies any wrongdoing.
"Are you concerned that your case has generated so much interest and in particular has politicized the whole issue of vaccines?" Trent asked her.
"No, not really. It's just what happened to me," she said.
INSIDE EDITION has to point out one other thing. When Jennings first walked out of a store and into the shopping center parking lot, she seemed to be walking normally, but as she left to get into her car, she was walking sideways. She says it was because of the dystonia.
She also told INSIDE EDITION, "Don't catch me driving 'cause I don't think I'm supposed to be driving."
Jennings is no longer seeing the controversial Dr. Buttar, but she did show INSIDE EDITION a report from a doctor who also believes her symptoms were vaccination-induced.