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‘Like the Tin Man’: National Guardsman Paralyzed by COVID Vaccine

‘Like the Tin Man’: National Guardsman Paralyzed by COVID Vaccine

For many of us, whole-body paralysis is a worst nightmare scenario. For a Minnesota National Guardsman, who goes by Drew Outstanding on X, that nightmare became a reality in April 2021. In the space of two weeks, Drew went from a normal, active lifestyle to waking up unable to move and then entering a medically-induced coma.

Before this dramatic transformation, Drew worked full-time as an account manager for a large corporation, attended MBA school, and served in the Minnesota National Guard. He lived an active lifestyle, meeting the physical requirements for military service, running Spartan races and half-marathons. He joined the military at 19 and had already been deployed twice: once to Iraq in 2005 and then again to the Middle East in 2018–19.

As a member of the military who received routine shots, he took vaccines as an ordinary part of life and didn’t question the COVID injection, which he was told would keep him safe from the illness and prevent transmission to either his 6-month-old son or his elderly mother. He believed what the media said about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

Drew’s company required him to receive the vaccine, and he did so in April 2021. Much of the world was still under the heavy glove of lockdowns at this time, and he received the shot at a Department of Veteran Affairs facility in a cubicle in the atrium, an environment that he described as “not medical-like.” The staff told him to go sit for 15 minutes after receiving the injection and, if he experienced no ill effects, to go home. Nothing happened in those minutes, so he returned home.

The staff also told him he might experience flu-like symptoms, and these indeed set in almost immediately. Over the next week, though, what Drew experienced went far beyond flu symptoms. He felt numbness and tingling spreading through his fingers and toes. His muscles grew unaccountably weak, and he began to lose his balance. He struggled to pick things up, including his infant son.

Then he was hit with the anvil: He woke up one morning, and he couldn’t move his torso, couldn’t move his arms, and could barely move his legs.

“Everything was just kind of stiff, like the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz,” Drew told Intellectual Takeout. A family member rushed him to the emergency room, where doctors tested him for everything they could think of. None of the tests came back positive at first, but, based on Drew’s symptoms, the doctors began to suspect Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which is a rare autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks and damages the body’s own nerves. The doctors conducted a painful spinal tap to test their diagnosis and confirmed their suspicions.

Increased risk for GBS is now a known side-effect of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and increased cases of GBS have been linked to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. But no doctor at any point during Drew’s treatment was willing to assert that his condition was a result of the shot, even though the symptoms set in within a week of receiving it.

From the emergency room near his home, Drew was rushed to the neurological ICU at United Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Bit by bit, Drew was losing various bodily functions. In the ICU, he was told that he needed to be placed in a coma to receive proper treatment.

Drew felt that his world was ending. He agreed to enter the coma, which lasted for a week, while the doctors conducted treatments, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) and plasmapheresis. IVIg infusions provide the bloodstream with donor plasma that contains healthy antibodies to combat and dilute the GBS antibodies that are destroying the body’s nerves. In plasmapheresis or plasma exchange, the patient is attached to a machine that removes blood and filters out the GBS antibodies.

These treatments likely saved Drew’s life. Still, when he awoke, he felt as though he were in a coffin, for he was now completely paralyzed—even his eyelids would not close. He described this awakening as “surreal.” After the blur of events and the strange mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, he struggled to distinguish between the real and the unreal. Drew relied on machines to run his body. All systems had shut down. There was a breathing tube, a food tube, and countless cords hooked into his body.

It took many weeks to begin to regain feeling in his body. Once, the doctor told him to curl his toes, and Drew could feel them curling. But when the doctor held up a mirror, Drew saw that his toes were not actually moving. In that moment, he hit rock bottom. The control he thought he had of his extremities was a dream, an illusion. But Drew refused to stay in this low point, largely because of his baby son who remained always in his thoughts and motivated his efforts to get better.

When he was able to communicate through mumbling and signing, Drew asked the doctors how this had happened and if it was related to the vaccine, but he received only non-answers. No Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) report was filed by the doctors, so Drew eventually did it himself.

Little by little, with the help of therapy, Drew regained some functionality, first in his chest, then in other parts of the body. The paralysis was replaced with severe nerve pain, however, as a result of the damage dealt to his nerves by his immune system. Eventually, United Hospital could do no more for him, and he was transferred to a VA hospital where he received excellent care. He remained there with a spinal cord unit until October 2021, continuing to receive blood treatments and physical therapy. Eventually, he was sent home, though still in an almost vegetative state.

But Drew’s natural determination and desire to set an example for his son propelled him forward. “I’ve always been … self-motivated to get out there and enjoy life and be around people. And mainly my son has just kinda gotten me through all of this. I want to be able to set a good standard for him. Life is gonna get tough. Some things you can control. And some things you can’t. It’s how you respond to it. So I want to be able to teach him that. I try every day to get out and do more active things within my limitations.”

Through therapy and continued IVIg treatments (a grueling, 6-hour affair, two days in a row, every two weeks), Drew has gained back the use of much of his body. But even today, three years later, he can only walk a block with the assistance of ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) and a cane, and he often uses walkers, braces, or a wheelchair. He’s suffered some cognitive setbacks as well, and he has to spend time working to rebuild his memory. He described his current state as only 25 percent of his old self.

Drew isn’t allowing his new body to hold him back, however. He participates in adaptive sports and engages in activism to help other vaccine-injured people. He hosts discussions about the vaccine on Twitter/X, one of the few social media platforms that doesn’t censor such conversations. With the hope of connecting with others and working to remove the emergency use authorization that allowed the COVID vaccine usage prior to normal drug approval and the PREP Act that shielded the manufacturers from liability, he appears on others’ podcasts, attends conferences, and gives motivational speeches about recovering from a life-changing event. He also supports the fight against censorship and for justice for military friends who were discharged from the military for not getting the shot.

Drew doesn’t want people to forget what happened during the COVID ordeal, the way that it reshaped our nation and our world, our social fabric, and drastically altered the lives of many forever. He told Intellectual Takeout: “There are so many other people struggling with these conditions, post-vaccine. It’s been a crazy couple years for a lot of people.” He encourages people to do their own research, ask questions, and have the hard conversations. It could all happen again, and Americans deserve answers and accountability.

Images provided by Drew

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Walker Larson
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6 Comments

  • Avatar
    Lorri Jennings
    June 26, 2024, 9:27 am

    Thank you for telling this story. Chris Cuomo just covered a military woman who is injured, 24 with 3 heart attacks. Sad what we have asked our brave soldiers to endure after asking them to "do the right thing."

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Marj
    June 26, 2024, 4:04 pm

    I lost a dear friend to the covid jab. We must never again allow the “powers that be” cause so much harm to humanity. Your courage and determination to recover is remarkable. In sharing your experience, I hope that people will come to know the truth. May God bless you with healing and faith.

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Jennifer Eaves
    June 26, 2024, 4:14 pm

    Bless you, Drew!

    Thank you for sharing this story through Intellectual Takeout.

    May this body of Drew’s continue to move towards healing and remission from the devastating effects of GBS and the effects of this mandated medical intervention.

    Thank you for your service, Drew!

    REPLY
    • Avatar
      Mary Gottlieb@Jennifer Eaves
      June 26, 2024, 5:28 pm

      Bless you Drew. You are on my prayer list for healing and full recovery. You are a true hero and your determination and
      courage inspire us all to stop grumbling and live the day to
      the fullest. Blessings to you and Family.

      REPLY
  • Avatar
    Kathie
    June 26, 2024, 9:13 pm

    I weighed my options for taking the flu vaccine; it too has a heightened risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome; but I also discovered that, like contracting COVID-19, contracting the flu presented an even higher risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do but it's shortsighted to pretend either choice is without risk. I hope Drew continues to recover, but there is no guarantee that he wouldn't have gotten sick and had adverse side effects if he had not taken the vaccine.

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  • Avatar
    Bruce_in_AZ
    June 28, 2024, 11:39 am

    Many thanks and best of luck Drew. Being a Viet Nam vet, I was given many vaccines and probably would have felt grateful for one that they told us would protect us during a pandemic. I have become a skeptic, now. Thank you for telling your story.

    REPLY

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