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Las Vegas teen learning to walk again after rare COVID-19 vaccine reaction

Emma Burkey walking
Posted at 5:02 PM, Oct 13, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A Las Vegas teenager is learning to walk all over again after suffering rare side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Emma is really a fighter. She is determined I think to get as well as she can,” said Bret Johnson, a family friend.

Each step she takes is one small step for Emma Burkey but one giant leap in her recovery. It has been about six months since she suffered from rare blood clots after taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Johnson says Emma’s progress is remarkable and that she was initially unable to get out of bed or talk.

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"She’s come back to a place where she can fully communicate. She has her full personality back. Her full mental function,” he said.

Her family made trips back and forth from Southern California for her treatment and Emma was able to return home a few months ago. Johnson says her parents have gone through so many emotions but remain committed to helping their daughter.

“Her parents are both there for her. Very supportive. Her dad is with her at every moment of physical therapy,” he said.

Dr. Christina Madison, a professor of pharmacy practice at Roseman University says the quick reporting of Emma’s condition helped save lives and have doctors direct people susceptible to blood clots to use other vaccines.

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"Because of their quick thinking and because they reported it and used V-safe, we were most likely able to save more lives and treat people appropriately for this rare and serious blood clot,” she said.

Dr. Madison says the benefits still overwhelmingly outweigh the risks, saying the serious side effects of getting the shot are about one in a million. Still, doctors are prepared for a scenario like Emma’s.

"I think it’s more about us understanding the mechanism behind that side effect and doing our due diligence for screening people for appropriate vaccinations,” she said.

Johnson says Emma’s family still supports vaccination.

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"They didn’t want Emma’s situation to discourage people from getting vaccinated and bringing it in in this pandemic.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help pay for Emma’s medical expenses. That can be found here.