'Did the swine flu jab leave my son (15) with chronic sleep disorder?'
THE mother of a Dublin teen who collapses when he laughs or cries, fears he could be suffering from a serious sleeping disorder as a result of the swine flu vaccine.
Mary Fitzpatrick says her son Conor (15) can't be left on his own since he developed the debilitating condition narcolepsy.
His school work has suffered severely as he can fall asleep in any place, at any time.
Ms Fitzpatrick spoke to the Herald days after it emerged that two countries, Finland and Norway, have linked the swine flu vaccine Pandemrix to narcolepsy but an Irish investigation into the situation remains stalled.
The Ballymun mum says she only realised that her son was suffering from the condition when she read about the possible links between the Pandemrix vaccine and narcolepsy in a Herald article.
There are now more than 30 Irish families who believe their children have suffered the serious sleeping disorder from the vaccine.
The children and young adults, aged between four and 22, now suffer from extreme drowsiness, sudden naps and terrifying paralysis attacks.
Irish health authorities have stressed that clinical research into a potential link between the vaccine and narcolepsy has not yet concluded, and the HSE is carrying out a study of all cases in Ireland.
A report on the findings is due to be published in the coming weeks.
Families are now campaigning for education and training support, as well as compensation. But it was while Conor was getting tests in hospital in 2010 that Mary saw an article in the Herald about a possible link between the Pandemrix vaccine and narcolepsy.
"I read a report in the Herald about the possible links and it was like somebody punched me in the face," Mary explained.
"Conor had been like every other child his age until he got the vaccination which initially caused him to get very ill, and then over the coming months he got tired and would fall asleep more often," said Mary.
"I thought it was because he was coming into his teenage years but then around May of 2010 everything changed completely. He started to collapse when he laughed or cried or felt any strong emotion. His legs would go weak and he would lose muscle tone in his face and body overall," Mary explained.
Mary helped co-found a group called SOUND (Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder) for parents and children affected by the disorder.
"To date we have 33 families who have contacted us, but our fear is that there are other children out there who are undiagnosed and could benefit from our help," she said.
"Conor is traumatised by what has happened to him, and he knows it's for life. He does have medication now which helps, but as it wears off his symptoms start to return. He can't be on his own because of what could happen, and I won't let him go swimming unless I'm with him.
"Conor used to be a bright child but now he finds the days in school very long and his concentration is compromised." she explained.
Conor attends St Aidan's School in Whitehall, and is due to sit his Junior Cert this year. And although he can fall into a sleep state in an instant, he only sleeps for short periods.
On a good night Conor may be able to sleep for an hour or two, and he often suffers from hallucinations and sleep paralysis where he is awake but unable to move his body.
Mary believes that if the link between the vaccine and narcolepsy is confirmed, Conor and all other affected children should be compensated for the "life they could have led."