Wednesday, September 5, 2012

See, chicken pox is a good thing (one from the "Death isn't everything series")

Brenden Hall just became Paralympic champion in the 400m Freestyle S9, beating the runner up by a full 7 seconds. The 19 year old Australian is already competing in his second Paralympic Games after having been the youngest male athlete on the 2008 Australian Team in Beijing.

The reason he can compete in the Paralympic Games is that he had to have his right leg amputated due to complications of chicken pox at the age of 6. He also lost 70% of his hearing. Hall had just started swimming competitively before he contracted chicken pox at the end of first grade, which landed him in hospital for 6 weeks - he describes his illness:

"It was during December, 1999, I sort of just finished grade one and I contracted chicken pox, I got DVT* in my lower right limb.
They (the hospital) rang my parents up and said, 'You better get in here, we've got a decision to make'.
It was either my leg or my life, because the day before, I'd flatlined for about 29min, roughly. I was in cardiac arrest for 29min in hospital before they decided to take my leg off, due to the blood clot because it was in one of the main veins going back to my heart." *deep vein thrombosis
This is not a common complication and it did end in something good besides Paralympic medals for Brenden Hall - he says:
"I had a specialist come over from Canada onto my case, because (the doctors here) hadn't seen anything like it before, but they had a case overseas.
Two months later, because of my case, they brought the chicken pox vaccine out to Australia to start distributing for kids.
It's (chickenpox) something for kids to experience, but there definitely are those rare situations behind it that you don't want to risk."


  1. 80% of the Iranian sitting volleyball squad are paralysed courtesy of polio.
    Which they caught as kids (they are around 25 yrs old).


  2. "Poliomyelitis, the virus which can cause paralysis, has been largely eradicated around the globe since 1988 due to global efforts. Since 1988 the number of cases has fallen by 99 per cent. Today only parts of three countries in the world remain endemic for the disease, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

    However, many countries have battled with the virus and this can be seen in higher levels of polio victims present in teams from Mexico, India, Iran, Ghana and Vietnam.

    In China's team hot medal prospects Dong Qi, Liu Lei and Xiao Cuijuan (all power-lifting gold-medallists at Beijing) and Lisha Huang (a triple gold-medallist at Beijing, pictured left), are all polio sufferers."

  3. I didn't know that Dingo, thanks for sharing. And congratulations to these amazing athletes for representing their countries so well and being models for other youths facing adversity.

  4. Here's our American Paralympics rugby star:

    Nick Springer contracted meningoccal meningitis which caused the partial amputation of his four limbs.

    His mom who died recently and three other parents of children who had invasive disease, started the National Meningitis Association, which works toward educating parents about the importance of meningitis vaccine.

  5. The contrast between the fortitude shown by these athletes devastated by vaccine-preventable infections is quite marked when one reads about people upset they haven't got £120,000 compensation because they became deaf in one ear following MMR vaccine in infancy.

    According to the Times, Miss Stevens risks not being able to hear her wake up alarm if she sleeps with her head on the wrong side, and people who don't realise she cannot hear them well might think she is ignoring them.

    What compensation does someone get who loses a leg from meningococcal sepsis? Not money from the Government, that's for sure. Instead, if they work hard to overcome their misfortune, and not expect handouts, they can do pretty well for themselves.

  6. Dingo199 - while I admire the athletes who worked incredibly hard to achieve their dreams, I still think that the decision not to award some sort of compensation to that young lady was somewhat petty (and counter productive if you want to think strategically - it plays into the hands of those who claim that once a child sustains a permanent damage from a vaccine, parents are left alone to cope).

    1. True, proven vaccine damage should get compensation, but this should be proportionate. The maximum compensation payable in the UK for occupational/industrial deafness in one ear is apparently £29,000, and for "some hearing loss" is up to £8,000.

      It seems that this girl has 20% loss, meaning she falls below the threshold of 60% loss, yet her mother is trying to claim £120,000.