Military anthrax vaccine leaves OKC woman impaired

After serving as chief of administrative and environmental law at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, Capt. Kelli Donley was sent to Korea in 2000. Right before her deployment, she received her first anthrax vaccination. Her second shot came immediately after she arrived in Korea, and her third, a couple weeks later.

Then, the vaccine supply ran out and she didn’t have to take the remaining three shots in the regimen. It was a stroke of good fortune for Donley.

“I did have an immediate local reaction, where my arm went numb and tingly and red,” Donley said. “But what I have today snuck up on me.”

Donley continued to serve as a lawyer in the Air Force, ultimately for a total of eight years, in postings like the United Kingdom and Tinker Air Force Base before she was diagnosed with spinocerebellar ataxia, a rare, usually genetic, disease that affects the part of the brain associated with movement control and sensory perception.

Today, the Oklahoma City resident’s cerebellum has shrunk from its previously normal size, leaving her with:
” trouble walking,
” slurred speech,
” impaired depth perception, and
” an uneasy feeling when she climbs ladders and stairs.

“It’s pretty easy to isolate what caused the problem,” Donley said. “All the genetic tests were negative. I’ve had blood tests eliminate so many other potential causes, too ” Lyme disease, diabetes, cancer ” and it wasn’t some immune disease. Everything was medically ruled out.” “Lisa Spinelli

Lisa Spinelli

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