A FAMILY who have been fighting for answers for more than 30 years say they will never give up hope of getting justice for their daughter.
Fred and Pat Pye, of King George Avenue, Northwich, claim their daughter Debbie was left severely disabled when she was given a DPT injection, a fore-runner of the MMR vaccine, in the late 1960s.
Now the couple have taken their fight to the next level, writing to Conservative Party leader Michael Howard in a bid for justice for them and the other 500 families in the region who have found themselves in the same situation.
Debbie developed a condition which has never been diagnosed after she received the DPT injection, which protects against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, when she was five months old.
Fred and Pat say the change in their daughter was almost immediate. She began having spasms and mini fits and was constantly screaming. She is now 36 and needs constant care as she is profoundly deaf and cannot speak nor feed herself.
Fred and Pat, along with other couples in the region, are lobbying the government and drug companies in a bid to get someone to admit liability for the treatment which they believe is to blame for their childrens' problems.
But they have already been denied Legal Aid in their fight, and Pat admits that her options are running out.
Inoculation concern was voiced in past >>>
Inoculation concern was voiced in past
MMR ARE initials which have worried many new parents since a link was claimed between the inoculation and autism.
But the controversy is not new - back in the 1960s DPT started to make their dreaded way into the headlines when parents took their babies to be protected against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus.
As with the measles, mumps and rubella jab, a small percentage of babies suffered a terrible reaction - they were brain damaged and the whooping cough vaccine was widely blamed.
Blamed by the parents, that is, and some medical opinion - but responsibility has never been admitted by the Government or the drug companies.
The fight for justice goes on and North-wich coupleFredandPat Pyeareamongthe hundreds of parents still being fended off by the Government some four decades later.
Their daughter Debbie is now 36 and needs constant care, yet until she was five months old, before she was given the jab, she was as bright as a button.
'She was perfect; absolutely gorgeous,' said Pat.
'In those days you were sent for. You looked up to doctors and they knew best. No-one told you anything about the vaccines. She had her injections and, at the time, she had a runny nose, a bit of a chill.
'Shortly after she had infantile spasms, a mini-fit and started screaming, screaming, screaming. I did not know what was wrong. I was frightened, sick with worry. I've been sick with worry for the past 36 years.'
Pat took Debbie back to the doctor repeatedly but he could not make a diagnosis.
'The difference in her was almost immediate. I would go into her room and instead of a smile there was nothing. There was no life in her eyes. She screamed, would not let us hug her and she would not take her bottle.
'The doctor realised there was obviously something wrong, but did not know what,' recalled Pat, who is 64 and lives at King George Avenue, Northwich.
Then, on one trip to the surgery, Debbie hadaconvulsionin thesurgeryandlapsed into a coma. She was admitted to West Park Infirmary, Macclesfield, for tests and so began a lifetime of hospital stays and treatment.
The vaccine, says Pat, was to blame. Debbie is profoundly deaf and cannot speak, neither can she feed herself, and is supervised by her parents or other carers 24 hours a day.
'I have tremendous sympathy with those parents who see a link between the MMR vaccine and their child's autism,' said Pat.
'After 36 years we have still not had a diagnosis. I am still desperate for someone - the Government, the authorities, the drug companies - to come clean and say what happened, for someone to take responsibility or admit liability.
'Just for someone to explain why she has suffered, or why no-one is clever enough to find out.
'I have been full of guilt. I try to look forward now and not feel guilty, but sometime afterwards it came out that babies should not be given the vaccine if they were ill or had a cold. But I knew none of that.
'Debbie has not been cheated because she does not know she has been cheated.
'When it happens you feel alone. I was isolated. People we counted as friends stopped coming to see us.
'Ifacouplehave aDownSyndromebaby, they know what the disability is. They have a label. All I was told was that Debbie was mentally handicapped and they said I could put her in Cranage (Mental) Hospital.
'But she was mine. I was her mum. It was my job to look after her. I don't know how Fred and I are still here. The strain is incredible - I have suffered a nervous breakdown.'
Debbie's normal physical progress was impaired because of what happened.
'She sat up by herself for the first time at 18 months - it was the proudest day of my life,' said Pat.
She had screaming fits until after she started at Hartford Hill Special School, and even today still attends Castleleigh Day Care Centre.
Pat and Fred, 67, soon found out there were other parents in the same position. An Altrincham-based solicitor is handling the litigation on behalf of 500 couples in the region and there are thousands more nationwide.
But Legal Aid has recently been discontinued for them and those seeking redress over MMR.
'I have taken Debbie to virtually every specialist in the country. Because she has no immune system she is in constant danger and every little illness is serious - once she nearly died. We are not going to give up the fight,' said Pat.
Amazingly, there has been a happy development in Debbie's life - and for mum and dad. Fresh treatment for her lifelong stomach complaint has had some success. A combination of Lansoprazole capsules and 'bacteria drink' has worked wonders. The constant discomfort and pain in her gut seems to have gone.
'It has been like watching a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis. Instead of miserable she is happy,' said Pat.
What's more a novelty ball that lights up when it hits the floor, had a surprising effect.'
Pat added: 'There was an instant reaction. In 36 years she has never reacted instantly to anything.'