Wife whose husband was left severely brain damaged by measles issues a heartfelt plea to parents to vaccinate their children
- Paul Dyer, 50, thought he had been vaccinated against measles but hadn’t been
- Mistook measles for a cold but then developed a rash and was taken to hospital
- Was placed in coma to help his body fight the disease but left brain damaged
A devoted wife has painted a heartbreaking picture of her husband’s decline from the energectic character she married to being severely brain damaged – all because he had no idea he hadn’t been vaccinated against measles.
At one point advised to turn off his life support machine, Tracey Dyer, 49, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, refuses to give up on Paul, 50, who she’s been with since 2007.
But she has issued a stark warning to people not to refuse the MMR jab, now given by the NHS to babies and young children to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, after measles turned the man she loves into a shell of his former self.
Paul Dyer, 50, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, was diagnosed with measles after coming down with cold-life symptoms and was rushed to hospital when he developed a rash all over his body. Pictured, Paul before he contracted measles (left) and now, in his nursing home (right)
His wife Tracey, 49, (pictured together when they first met) has issued a stark warning to people who refuse to give the MMR jab to children, highlighting the effect it had on her husband
The 50-year-old’s wife said she and Paul were unaware he had never had a vaccination for measles and she has made it her mission to encourage people to get the jab. Pictured, Paul after his condition deteriorated rapidly
Now crowdfunding to pay for adaptations to a bungalow, so Paul can come home from the nursing home where he is based in time for Christmas, Tracey said: ‘People have told me that I would be entitled to walk away and start again.
‘That’s not going to happen. Paul and I love one another and we made a vow.
‘I know that doctors are very qualified, but they don’t know Paul like I do. Nobody can say for sure what sort of recovery he’ll make, if any, but there are times when I can see a glimpse of the old him.
‘All I can do is hold onto the hope that he’s still in there somewhere.’
When Paul was suddenly struck by cold-like symptoms in September 2017, he and Tracy – who’s had to close the taxi business they ran together – assumed he had a simple winter bug.
But within days, a rash broke out across his body and, eventually, he ended up in hospital, where doctors diagnosed measles and put him in an induced coma to give his body a chance to fight.
After Paul suffered severe brain damage he was put in a nursing home where he is cared for by staff around the clock but Tracey is hoping to raise money to adapt a bungalow so he can finally return home. Pictured, Tracey and Paul together at his nursing
Despite the doctors telling her Paul is unlikely to ever be the same again after the brain damage he has suffered, Tracey (pictured with her husband) still holds out hope and refuses to give up on him
Tragically, he has been left severely brain damaged and despite Tracey’s refusal to give up on the man she loves, the hope of him making a full recovery remains slight.
Tracey, who has been an independent taxi driver since closing their business in December 2017, first crossed paths with Paul when they were children, although they did not start dating until 2007.
Recalling their reunion, she said: ‘At the time, I was working as a bus driver and Paul was a cabbie.
‘I parked up near a taxi rank one day and he boarded the bus. He said, ‘Tracey, there’s a face I haven’t seen in years.’
‘At first, I had no idea who he was, but it turned out we had gone to the same youth club as kids.’
Once they teamed up, they worked hard and had a busy social life – enjoying meals out, holidays and long walks with their dog Spud, as well as spending time with their children from previous relationships.
Everything changed within days after Paul came down with a cough, sniffles and aches and pains in September 2017.
At first, they both thought, as he was rarely ill, that he must simply be run down.
In September 2017, Paul, pictured in hospital when he first arrived, started developing cold symptoms which he dismissed as a winter bug but he was soon rushed to hospital when he broke out in a red rash all over his body and after tests doctors confirmed he had measles
The sweet couple, pictured together before Paul contracted measles, first met when they were children attending the same youth club, but it wasn’t until 2007 that they crossed paths again and began dating
But a few days later, when a blotchy rash appeared on his face, Tracy sent Paul to the GP’s.
She said: ‘The doctor said it was likely a nasty chest infection and that the redness was from him coughing.
‘He was sent home with antibiotics, but when two days passed and they hadn’t kicked in, I sent him back.’
This time, Paul was told to go straight to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, where he was admitted.
There, his rash worsened and he became increasingly agitated, eventually having a seizure.
Tracey recalled: ‘The hospital called me and said, ‘How far away are you?’ They told me Paul was going into respiratory failure.
‘When I got there, I could hear them working on him. After what felt like an age, I was allowed see him.
‘I wasn’t at all prepared for the shock of it. The same man who had been fine a few days earlier was suddenly hooked up to all these monitors, his face swollen up and a rash spreading across his body.
‘I replayed that moment in my head for so long afterwards. I struggled to sleep as I’d have nightmares and flashbacks. It was utterly horrendous.’
The couple both have children from previous relationships, and prior to his brain damage, Paul and Tracey would often spend their free time socialising with their family and going on long walks with their dog Spud (pictured with Paul)
After Paul was taken to hospital, Tracey received a terrifying call asking how far away she was because her husband had gone into respiratory failure. Pictured, Paul before he became unwell
After placing him in an induced coma, doctors ran a string of tests on Paul, including a lumbar puncture – where a needle is inserted between two vertebrae to test the spinal fluid – which revealed that he had measles.
While it is a highly infectious viral illness, according to the NHS, it usually clears up after seven to 10 days.
But it can, as in Paul’s case, lead to serious complications, including seizures, heart and nervous system problems and even meningitis.
And since he was diagnosed, provisional statistics from Public Health England have shown a rise in incidents of measles in England, with 265 cases recorded in 2017, 968 in 2018 and 798 in 2019, compared to just 91 in 2015.
‘Paul and I had no idea he wasn’t vaccinated,’ said Tracey. ‘I was gobsmacked. As he was working as a taxi driver when he became ill, he could have contracted the virus from absolutely anywhere.’
After a month in a coma, during which time his devoted wife barely left his side, doctors began attempting to bring Paul round, only he would not wake up.
To find out what was wrong with Paul (pictured), they placed him in an induced coma and did a lumbar puncture which revealed he was in fact suffering from measles
After a month of being in a coma, during which time his devoted Tracey barely left his side, doctors began attempting to bring Paul round but the father did not wake up. Pictured, Tracey and Paul earlier this year
Tracey recalled: ‘No matter what anybody tried, he couldn’t be roused. A consultant took me to one side and said that he had sustained a serious brain injury and that the kindest thing to do would be to turn off his life support machine and let him go peacefully.
‘He was in a vegetative state and, at that stage, it didn’t look like he was going to come out of it.
‘It felt like my whole world had caved in. I couldn’t get my head around the fact the measles had done this to him.
‘I refused to give up on him though and doctors said they would run one last test to check his response to pain.
‘Thankfully, that showed some brain activity. I knew we had a long way to go, but I clung on to that hope.’
In mid-November, Paul finally came round – but, unable to walk or talk, it was clear his recovery was going to be incredibly difficult.
Over the next few weeks, his speech improved and he regained some movement in his arms and legs.
‘I would sit and talk to him, squeezing his hand,’ said Tracey. ‘At first, it was almost impossible to understand him, but he made great progress and was even able to tell me he loved me again.’
WHAT IS MEASLES, WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND HOW CAN YOU CATCH IT?
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads easily from an infected person by coughing, sneezing or even just breathing.
Symptoms develop between six and 19 days after infection, and include a runny nose, cough, sore eyes, a fever and a rash.
The rash appears as red and blotchy marks on the hairline that travel down over several days, turning brown and eventually fading.
Some children complain of disliking bright lights or develop white spots with red backgrounds on their tongue.
In one in 15 cases, measles can cause life-threatening complications including pneumonia, convulsions and encephalitis.
Dr Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society told MailOnline: ‘Measles can be very serious.
‘[It] can cause encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain.
‘Encephalitis can result in death or disability.’
Treatment focuses on staying hydrated, resting and taking painkillers, if necessary.
Measles can be prevented by receiving two vaccinations, the first at 13 months old and the second at three years and four months to five years old.
Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital
In January 2018, Paul was moved to a specialist rehabilitation unit for people with brain injuries in Bristol, Somerset.
There, he continued to go from strength to strength – even managing to stand with the help of extensive physiotherapy and a special walking aid.
But in March, everything came crashing down once again.
‘I went in for my usual daily visit and, overnight, Paul had gone completely backwards,’ said Tracey.
‘He couldn’t speak or move. To this day, nobody has any idea why. He’s had so many tests but they’ve all come back clear.
‘Doctors suggested it might have been a secondary infection, but we will never know for sure.’
Next, Paul was moved to The Dean Neurological Centre in Gloucester, for more rehabilitation, before settling in a nursing home at the beginning of 2020.
No matter what people tried, Paul couldn’t be roused and a consultant took Tracey aside and said that he had sustained a serious brain injury advised the ‘kindest thing to do’ was turn the life support machine off. Pictured, Paul in hospital after his health had rapidly deteriorated
Now, he can speak, move his arms and legs and has retained his memory, but he struggles with co-ordination and relies on a wheelchair.
He cannot eat solid food and requires round-the-clock care with everyday tasks.
‘He knows who everybody is and can give one word answers,’ said Tracey. ‘Sometimes I can see little glimpses of the old Paul.
‘He had a fantastic sense of humour and he’ll try to joke with me when he can. I see a mischievous glint in his eye and know that’s my Paul.’
Forced to live away from her husband for the past three years, Tracey is now fighting to get him home in time for Christmas, hoping that being around her will stimulate his brain and aid his recovery.
Following a long search, she has finally found a bungalow suitable for all the adaptations he would require, but as it is unfurnished, she is hoping that a GoFundMe page set up by a friend will help raise £3,000 to kit it out.
In mid-November, Paul finally came round but was unable to walk or talk and over the next few weeks his speech improved and he regained some movement in his arms and legs. Pictured, Tracey and Paul together in hospital
‘Financially, this has been incredibly difficult,’ she said. ‘I’ve had to close my business and sell virtually everything Paul and I had.
‘I’ve kept working when I can, but being there for Paul and dealing with all the red tape, forms and meetings that come with arranging his care has been a full-time job in itself.
‘I don’t like asking for help, so I’ve done it all myself, but my friend set up a crowdfunding page without me knowing about it and the response has been humbling.
‘I know lots of us are struggling right now, so I am incredibly touched that people have chosen to help me.’
As brain injuries are so complex, medics cannot say for sure how much of a recovery Paul will make and how long it will take.
For now, Tracey, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her ordeal, continues to take life one day at a time, refusing to give up on her husband.
In January 2018, Paul (pictured in hospital) was moved to a specialist rehabilitation unit for people with brain injuries in Bristol, Somerset where continued to go from strength to strength and even managed to stand two months later he went backwards and was unable to speak or move again
‘I’m not expecting him to suddenly get up and do the Riverdance – that’s a little joke we have a chuckle about – but all I can do is try,’ she said. ‘Any bit of hope he gives me, I’m going to hold on to.
‘He is trying every day to push himself and I am going to be with him every step of the way.’
Now Tracy wants other people to realise the devastating effect measles can have and to make sure they have been vaccinated.
She said: ‘I want people to double check if they have been vaccinated. As we get jabs as tiny babies, most of us don’t remember them happening, we just assume we’re protected.
‘There is lots of stuff in the press as the moment about people who are against vaccines, and everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but seeing what some people write is upsetting.
‘I wouldn’t wish whathas happened to us on my worst enemy. Our lives have been turned upside down in an instant and I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.’
To donate, visit their GoFundMe page.
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