‘It felt like my whole world had caved in’ Wife issues warning about vaccinations after measles left her husband severely brain damaged

A devoted wife has painted a heartbreaking picture of her husband’s decline from the enigmatic character she married to being severely brain damaged – all because he had no idea he had not been vaccinated against measles.

At one point advised to turn off his life support machine, Tracey Dyer, 49, refuses to give up on Paul, 50, who she has enjoyed her happiest times with since they began dating in 2007 and tied the knot two years later.

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.

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, of Stroud, Gloucestershire, 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.”



Tracey and Paul when they first met

When Paul was suddenly struck by cold-like symptoms in September 2017, he and Tracy – who has 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.

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.



Paul after he rapidly deteriorated

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.

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.”



Tracey and Paul earlier this year

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,” she continued.

“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.”

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.

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.”

She added: “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.”

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.

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.

“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,” she added.

“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.

“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 what has 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.”

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