by Michael Nevradakis, Ph.D., Childrens Health Defense:
Injured by the COVID-19 vaccine — that his employer forced him to get — Stephen “Steve” Wenger is now unable to work full-time and is facing more than $70,000 in medical bills, he said in an exclusive interview with The Defender.
Stephen “Steve” Wenger, a longtime construction project manager in the telecommunications industry and former volunteer firefighter who was in excellent health, was “dead set” against receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
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But when faced with an ultimatum from his employer — get the vaccine or lose his job — Wenger reluctantly got vaccinated.
Within days, he found himself unable to stand up or move around. He crawled on his “hands and knees” into a hospital emergency room, he said.
Wenger ended up spending more than three months in the hospital, paralyzed from the waist down. He was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), “a neurological disorder that involves progressive weakness and reduced senses in the arms and legs” according to the National Institutes of Health.
Wenger, now 57, shared his story with The Defender, including his negative experience with the federal government’s Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP). He provided medical documentation to The Defender to corroborate his story.
‘It was either get vaccinated, or you can’t come to work’
“I was absolutely dead set against getting the vaccine,” Wenger told The Defender. “I swore I wouldn’t get it.”
Wenger was working on a project on the Navajo reservation in the desert Southwest when COVID-19 hit. “The Navajo people got really hit hard with COVID,” he said. “And I was working with these guys on a daily basis.”
His employer didn’t adopt an official mandate policy, but Wenger was nevertheless given an ultimatum.
“Finally, one day, the regional director came to me and asked me if I was vaccinated, and I said ‘no.’ They said, ‘We’re not going to tell you you have to get vaccinated, but if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t come up here and work with our employees.’
“So, it was either get vaccinated or you can’t come to work.”
On May 18, 2021, Wenger visited a local pharmacy and received his one and only dose of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine.
“I distinctly remember sitting there with the guy giving me the vaccine, and I said to him, ‘I hope I don’t regret this someday.’ I’ll never forget that,” Wenger said. “When I said that, I certainly didn’t think I was going to regret it.”
However, within days, he experienced a reaction to the shot.
“Seven days later, I started having issues walking,” Wenger said. “[My wife and I] were in Sedona [Arizona] … and we were at the bottom of this really steep hill, and we had to walk up this hill, and I remember I felt kind of tired and rundown that day … I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. My legs felt like they were in cement.”
Wenger didn’t immediately make the connection to his recent vaccination.
“It’s one of those things where you really don’t put two and two together,” he said. “It’s just kind of like, okay, maybe I’m just tired or having a bad day. So, I just blew it off.”
But later that evening, when he went out to dinner, his symptoms grew worse.
“I’m sitting in the restaurant, in a booth, and I had to get up and use the restroom,” he said. “I stood up and I did a 90-degree pivot and just lost my balance and literally almost fell on this other couple’s dinner, on this other couple’s table.”
Within days, back at work on the Navajo reservation, Wenger’s legs gave out.
“I was lying there sprawled out on the concrete,” Wenger recalled. “I got home, was having issues walking again, falling, losing my balance.”
At home, his daughter, a registered nurse, encouraged him to go to the hospital.
“I finally went to the ER,” Wenger said. “My wife literally pulled up in front of the door. I rolled out of the door, and I crawled on my hands and knees into the ER.”
Wenger told The Defender that just prior to this sequence of events, he had been researching some of the symptoms he was experiencing, and thought maybe they had something to do with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition where the body’s own immune system attacks the body’s nerves.
In the ER, healthcare providers administered a lower lumbar puncture, after determining he had no reflex response. The results of that examination led to his hospitalization “right there on the spot,” and ultimately, his CIDP diagnosis.
It was ‘a living hell’
The next three months were “a living hell,” Wenger said, as his condition worsened.
“When I went in, initially I was having problems walking, but my hands and my arms still worked. That numbness or that loss of use was creeping up. And eventually, all of a sudden, I couldn’t use my right arm. And then, my left arm was just barely functional.”
It reached a point where he couldn’t even pick up a fork, he said. “They have these foam pads that they put on the silverware so that if you can’t grip … you’d have a bigger surface to grab,” Wenger said. “Well, my hands were so weak that my fingers couldn’t even pick it up. The weight of a fork was too much for me to pick up.”
By that time, he was essentially a quadriplegic, he said. “The whole time I was at Mayo Clinic, the only way I could get in and out of bed was [with] overhead lifts. They would put me into a sling, and they would lift me out of bed, set me down in a wheelchair.”
Wenger said he remained in this condition for approximately two months. “The one thing that I could still do was urinate in the urinal bottle. And it got to the point where, finally, I was in bed one night and I hit the call button. I just said, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’”