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Originally published on The Defender.
Cody Hudson was interning in a medical office near his home in Florida, taking a gap year before beginning college in Arizona, when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns went into effect and ended his internship.
Like many American families, Cody and his family took the recommended precautions around COVID-19. But when the vaccines became available, his parents were skeptical, Cody told The Defender in an interview.
As he began planning for college and started a short-term job at a coffee shop where everyone was vaccinated, Cody started researching the vaccine online and talking to people around him. He concluded the vaccine made sense based on the available information.
His mother, Heather Hudson, told The Defender she didn’t want Cody to get vaccinated, but she had trouble finding convincing scientific information to convince him of the dangers.
“We would go on my computer and try to research and even myocarditis information wasn’t coming up,” Heather said. “The warnings that should have been there were censored from us.”
Cody’s employer didn’t require him to get the vaccine, he said, but he was “heavily encouraged” to get it, and concerned about keeping his job.
He also was concerned about being able to stay in school. “There was virtually no getting into college without having a vaccine, and having the paperwork to go with it,” he said. “It was a stressful situation.”
Two months after second Pfizer shot, ‘he was coughing up blood’
In July 2021, Cody got two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. He had flu-like symptoms following the first dose. About a week or two after the second shot, he began to get a rash on his arms.
“At first,” Cody said, “I thought it was eczema, which I’d had in the past. It kept coming and going. I thought it was probably from being exposed to more chemicals from hand sanitizers, so my instinct was to just try to take care of my skin the way I had been instructed to in the past.”
He used hypoallergenic soaps and got some sample creams from his dermatologist.
Soon Cody began having aches and pains in his body, including severe knee pain. He chalked it up to the fact that his family was packing up to move to Arizona and he was lifting heavy boxes and being exposed to a lot of dust. He also ran five miles a day which he thought could be contributing to his discomfort.
In September 2021, his situation began to deteriorate rapidly, according to Heather.
“As a mom, I know he was kind of hiding it from me, but he was clearly having aches and pains, and his knee was hurting worse,” she said. ”The skin condition was, to me, looking like something severe. And so I was encouraging him to go to the hospital, but he was afraid to go.”
Cody said he didn’t think anything really wrong “until I coughed up blood.”
One night after his regular run, he wasn’t feeling well and he went to sleep. “At three in the morning,” Heather said, “he was coughing up blood and hanging onto the walls trying to stand up, and his face was swelling.”
“I couldn’t lie down because it was so painful,” Cody said. “I felt like I was going to die from the pain. I don’t know how to describe it.”
He went to the emergency room where they diagnosed him with a pulmonary embolism in his left lung and numerous small blood clots, or thrombosis, in his right lung. He also had thrombocytopenia throughout his lungs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) shows between Dec. 14, 2020, and Sept. 22, 2023, 48,645 reports of blood-clotting disorders have been submitted. Of those, 33,532 reports were attributed to Pfizer.
‘They gave him three days to live’
Cody’s condition was particularly challenging to treat, “because you are dealing with bleeding and clotting at the same time, it’s very confusing,” Heather said.
“They gave him three days to live,” she said.
Cody said the doctors kept blaming the event on COVID-19 or “COVID pneumonia,” even though he had never had COVID-19 and all of the tests for both illnesses kept coming back negative.
Cody said his paperwork also indicated he was unvaccinated, though he had received both doses of the shot.
Heather said she suspected the vaccine caused Cody’s injuries, but the doctors were unwilling to entertain the idea or run any tests to find out. As Cody fought to stay alive, Heather took it upon herself to start researching what was going on.
Because the hospital kept insisting Cody had COVID-19 despite the negative tests, Heather wasn’t allowed in his hospital room. Instead, she got copies of his medical records almost daily and collected information on his condition by phone. Finally, she and her husband convinced the security guards to let them in to be with their son.
After just a few days in the hospital, Cody was sent home with no support, despite the fact he was clearly suffering from a life-threatening illness, Heather said. They got a hospital bed for their house and tended to him in the living room.
“I had to stay on an incline so I could breathe,” Cody said. “I couldn’t walk.”
Cody’s oxygen levels began to crash and he was soon back in the emergency hospital. Once again, they discharged him quickly.
“He turned 22 in the hospital,” Heather said “A 22-year-old kid who was a runner who was very fit with thrombocytopenia, thrombosis, no COVID, no pneumonia, and the hospital was releasing him again. And it just seemed surreal to me.”
For the next several months, Cody was in and out of urgent care and the emergency room. They found steroids helped him and so they kept seeking them out.
It took “five horrible months” of just trying to keep Cody alive, Heather said, before they found a doctor who would help them. She learned about a Florida doctor, Dr. Eduardo Balbona, who was helping patients who couldn’t recover from COVID-19 using the typical hospital protocols.
“I called Dr. Balbona,” Heather said, “and the rest is history.”
Balbona hadn’t treated a vaccine-injured patient before Cody, but he ran a series of tests and diagnosed him with new-onset antiphospholipid syndrome, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly produces antibodies that react against normal proteins in the blood, causing increased blood clotting.
Finally, the embolism started dissolving and Cody began breathing better. He said he felt a significant difference within the first month of getting treatment.
Finding community, learning to survive vaccine injuries
Today, Cody’s acute symptoms are gone, but he continues to suffer from a range of autoimmune issues that he will experience for the rest of his life. He has lesions that appear and disappear on his hands and arms, myopathy and neuropathy, heart issues and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). He also has nerve pain that strikes at random.
He walks with a cane and will never achieve his former level of fitness.
But, Cody said, “I’m a student and I have a 4.0 GPA that I am very proud of.” He’s majoring in English and he hopes to someday be an English professor.
College is difficult, not only because of his physical limitations but also because his illness devastated his family’s finances. “The medical bills are astronomical,” Heather said “and the medication every month is hundreds of dollars.”
“It’s a struggle,” Heather said, “but he is doing an amazing job despite what’s happened.”
Cody said that people see him and treat him differently now that he walks with a cane and often has lesions on his hands and face.
Heather added, “You can’t imagine the things people think about him or say out loud or even questions that they ask him.”
The family has found support in the growing community of people learning to survive with vaccine injuries. They have attended and held events where people can talk about what they are going through and share research. In that community, they said, they feel embraced.
“But society as a whole is really rough,” Heather said. “Cody has days that he is definitely struggling, especially if he falls at school. It’s embarrassing. People don’t understand why he’s sick or what’s going on. And so it’s hard for him. I think he feels alone in a lot of this.”
Heather actively researched the cause behind Cody’s illness. She helped Balbona publish a peer-reviewed case report on Cody’s condition that theorized the link between the mRNA vaccine and antiphospholipid syndrome.
Balbona’s report explained how the lipid nanoparticles in an mRNA vaccine can cause hypersensitivity reactions in some individuals that can lead to an autoimmune disorder resulting in thrombophilia — a tendency to form blood clots — and thrombotic complications.
They recommended pre-screening people for antiphospholipid antibodies (present in about 5% of the healthy population) prior to mRNA vaccination to identify those susceptible to this type of reaction.
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