Sara was eager to see the world while growing up in a small town, and rushed off to join the army right after high school. She entered basic training in 1998, the same year a massive campaign rolled out to vaccinate all military service members against anthrax. As a young recruit Sara received this vaccination without hesitation, trusting the military to put her best interests first. Unfortunately, this vaccine had not been properly tested for the intended use of protecting against inhaled anthrax, and was manufactured with inadequate quality control. This topic would be the subject of 13 congressional hearings just a few years later after many service members had developed adverse reactions, and many more were dishonorably discharged for refusing the vaccine. Lingering questions remained about a potential connection between the anthrax vaccine and Gulf War illness, a mysterious multi-system disease affecting a disturbing amount of veterans, and yet this vaccine continued to be administered. Sara experienced an adverse reaction after her first dose, but continued to receive additional doses over the course of her military career. Eventually, she was medically discharged with a diagnosis of vaccine immunoglobulin and antisera reaction, officially recorded as being disabled due to her reaction to the anthrax vaccine.
In this episode of the Major Pain podcast, Sara shares her individual journey living through an extremely unfortunate moment in American history. She is frustrated and angry with the US Government, not just for administering an unsafe vaccine but for refusing to conduct research into understanding exactly what went wrong. Sara has been diagnosed with over 25 conditions including more than 60 symptoms, including facial fasciculations, autonomic neuropathy, POTS, ITP, Raynaud’s syndrome and fibromyalgia. She has found solace in connecting with other similarly affected veterans, building a community and charity focused on promoting further research. She had hoped to spend 20 years in the military while working towards becoming a CIA agent. Although her career was cut short and she continues to face chronic health challenges, her drive to fight for herself and her fellow veterans has not been diminished.
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