Ross Wightman may be the first person in Canada to receive compensation for a COVID-19 vaccine injury.
The Lake Country man said life came to a halt for him shortly after receiving his first and only dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 30, 2021.
A year later on May 27, he received confirmation of compensation, stating it took 11 months from first starting the paperwork to finally getting approved.
“It was about 10 days later I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating back pain, my low back and into my hamstring that lasted for about four days.”
Wightman said his fourth trip to the emergency department included facial tingling and paralysis as a symptom. That’s when he says his life flipped upside-down.
“The neurologist that was consulted made a pretty quick decision based on my presentation and the vaccination timeline to order a lumbar puncture, which is one of the telltale signs of Guillain-Barré, which I have,” Wightman said. “I was admitted mid-morning on a Saturday and I think it was before dinner, so you know six hours later kind of thing, that I was told I most likely have Guillain-Barré, something that I’d never even heard of before.”
Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which a body’s immune system attacks the nerves. Weakness and tingling in the extremities are usually the first symptoms, which can quickly spread and paralyze the whole body.
Last year the European Medicines Agency (EMA)’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) issued a statement recommending the addition of a warning to raise awareness of GBS following the AstraZeneca vaccination, although they could not confirm nor rule out an association with the vaccine.
A total of 227 cases of GBS were reported to the EMA with an AstraZeneca vaccination on June 27, 2021, while around 51.4 million doses of AstraZeneca had been given to people in the European Union by June 20, 2021.
Wightman explained it was only recently he’s been able to walk without a walker.
Since the incident, Wightman said he’s had a couple of rounds of immunoglobulin IV therapy, which didn’t work and he’s undergone plasma exchange, physio and occupational therapy.
“Putting my clothes on, brushing my teeth that’s all really fatiguing for my hands.”
But he can breathe a little easier now knowing the financial compensation will let him focus more on recovery than on how the family will pay their bills.
“I’m not going to say how much yet because I’m not sure where it’s going. All that I’ve been telling people is that the framework of the program will pay up to $284,000 for pain and suffering. Then there is also a loss of income and then there will be expenses paid. In my case, a wheelchair, shower bench, adaptive equipment, orthotics, all that kind of stuff.”
It reports less than five Canadians have had the Medical Review Board determine the probable link between the vaccine and their injury, and that the injury is serious and permanent.
“I was told, I believe, that I’m the first person in Canada to receive it,” Wightman said.
He also said he has yet to meet anyone else who has been approved for compensation.
“I’ve certainly heard from lots of people that have had vaccine injuries, but I haven’t heard from anybody that has got the same letter that I have.”
Wightman is confident in time he will make a full recovery. He said he’s beating the drum for the healthcare workers on his recovery team commenting that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the amazing support system behind him.
To anyone experiencing similar challenges, he says he hopes their perseverance will pay off as his has.
“You’re not alone. There are lots of us out there and there’s a lot of support…speak up.”