Desiree Jennings back in the news

26 Jul

Remember Desiree Jennings? She was a cheerleader ambassador for the Washington Redskins who claimed that a flu shot gave her dystonia. She was highlighted by the Age of Autism blog and by Generation Rescue, who connected her with alternative medical practitioner Rashid Buttar. Mention of Desiree Jennings has been removed from the Generation Rescue website. Neurologist and blogger Steve Novella discussed how her case more closely resembled a psychogetic disorder. Dr. Novella’s take on the case prompted the American TV show Inside Edition to take a second look. We discussed the Jennings case then here on LeftBrainRightBrain as Successful blogging by Steven Novella: the Desiree Jennings story

Now the TV Show 20/20 has taken a look a the Desiree Jennings story in Medical Mystery or Hoax: Did Cheerleader Fake a Muscle Disorder?

First, one must stress that many people following this case have not been calling out “hoax”. A psychogentic disorder is quite real, just not dystonia and not physical.

That said, here is the trailer for the 20/20 episode:

I find the beginning to be really cheesy. The way they took the video to make it look like it was some film taken decades ago was, well, cheesy. Ms. Jennings is less than 30 years old. Somehow I doubt her wedding was recorded on film and, even if it was, it wouldn’t be so deteriorated in a few years. But, we get the idea–the wedding was in the past.

Ms. Jennings has been used as an example of how successful Rashid Buttar is. One article, copied to Dr. Buttar’s blog, states that shortly after beginning treatment with him:

The good doctor ran to his patient, fearing she had suffered another seizure but instead was elated to find that she was awake, coherent and carrying on a normal conversation with the nurses and her family. By the next day she was walking the corridors with limited affliction. (See the video at: The AMA has remained silent.

(note– is no longer active).

But just as she was leaving Dr. Buttar’s clinic on her last visit in December 2009 — with “20/20’s” cameras rolling — it all seemed to fall apart. Jennings was in distress again. She could no longer walk forward, and had to be taken out in a wheelchair.

In the early discussions of Ms. Jennings, much interest focused on the idea that she was diagnosed with Dystonia by doctors at Johns Hopkins. People complained that Dr. Novella shouldn’t make statements that contradicted doctors who actually saw Ms. Jennings. The 20/20 story states:

In search of a cure, Jennings and her husband Brendan visited countless doctors and four hospitals, among them Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, a rare movement disorder that causes the muscles to twitch or convulse involuntary. The symptoms resembled her own.

“a physical therapist told Jennings about dystonia”. That’s a bit different from a doctor diagnosed her with dystonia.

Yes, this isn’t about autism at all. But this story does shed some light onto groups like Generation Rescue who supported Desiree Jennings, sending her to Dr. Buttar. The story was compelling for them, even though it was not about autism. It was about alleged vaccine injury. Generation Rescue appears to have abandoned Ms. Jennings now. It sheds light on Dr. Buttar, whose claims of recovery for Ms. Jennings appear to be unsupported by the facts. Dr. Buttar is one of the more prominent names in the alternative medicine community marketing their services to the autism community.

24 Responses to “Desiree Jennings back in the news”

  1. isles July 27, 2010 at 16:25 #

    I think there’s some text missing from the last block quote.

    Desiree Jennings strikes me as increasingly pathetic. Your fifteen minutes are up, dear.

  2. will July 31, 2010 at 02:14 #

    you people absolutely amaze me Desiree jennings had a severe reaction from a medical drug that contains an extract of the worlds second most toxic substance and it effected her entire body whatever name you give it shattered her life
    give me a break you weirdos if a dog shit on her head and it fixed her who cares
    all of this garbage about putting it on and being a hoax doesnt say much for for some bloggers intelligence levels
    get real and get a life
    Will Bayley
    Western Australia

    • Susan G February 14, 2014 at 22:30 #

      First of all you mean affected not effeccted. Never the less please tell what the two world’s most toxic substances were that were in the vaccine.

      If you are referring to mercury you should know there are more than one types of mercury. The kind used in only one type of vaccine is thimersol. This type of mercury is found in only minuscule amounts and it is easily excreted from the body in only hours. There is more harmful mercury in a Tuna fish sandwitch. I have no idea what the other deadly toxin could be you are talking about.

      • Desaree October 14, 2014 at 17:52 #

        If you’re going to correct speak, I’ll correct your – “nevertheless” ..
        Carry on.

      • Desaree October 14, 2014 at 17:56 #

        Ooh… sandwich, too ..
        hmm.. are you from a foreign country? I’d say all your other grammar errors would be slightly more forgivable if that were the case.

      • Chris October 14, 2014 at 19:46 #

        Oh, cute. Someone who puts snide replies on four year old comments.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 14, 2014 at 21:22 #

        Yeah, I found those amusing. Like someone is checking every day for 4 years to see if they got a reply.

  3. Dedj July 31, 2010 at 02:21 #


    some of us have worked with people with various movement disorders, her case has been commented on by experts in movement disorders, and people with clinical experience treating movement disorders.

    Evidence that she had the reaction? She says she did.
    Evidence she has the disorder? She says a piece of paper says she has it.
    Evidence she was ‘cured’? She says she was.

    Evidence you will swallow anything? The contents of your post.

  4. will July 31, 2010 at 09:57 #

    the only movement disorder operating here is your lack of anything intelligent to say

    • Sullivan August 1, 2010 at 01:51 #

      “the only movement disorder operating here is your lack of anything intelligent to say”

      will, why even take the time to write that? It is childish and, frankly, a bit ironic.

      You would do well not to tell others to bugger off this site. Then again, you would do well to back your arguments up with actual data or at least something on topic.

      You may notice that I have not called Ms. Jennings a hoax. Neither have other bloggers who have covered this. It is the news stories who are bringing up the “hoax” question. Now, you appear to be accepting without any reservation the idea that Ms. Jennings suffered a vaccine reaction. Very interesting. Even Generation Rescue dropped her without a word.

      I would also point out that questioning the “intelligence levels” of bloggers–in other words using intelligence levels as an insult–is pretty rude on a disability-focused blog. I realize that such insults are ubiquitous, but perhaps you could rise above that and realize that using disability as an insult is just plain wrong?

      I really don’t mind people coming here and disagreeing with me. I do take issue with bullies, both the more overt and the less obvious. Keep that in mind while you take the odd stance of telling regular (and respectful) commenters on this site to “bugger off”. You weren’t exactly on the moral high ground in terms of rudeness with your other comments.

  5. will July 31, 2010 at 10:25 #

    For the record 2 children just this year died in Perth Western Australia and 70 with severe reactions from the from the flu needle in total there where over 100 kids suffering severe reactions from the last count and the rubbish was taken off the shelf
    the so called medical experts were still spruiking it was safe (using the magic of numbers)
    2 kids dead and 70 severely traumatised are you people insane
    or are your heads filled with the stuff you want me to swallow
    sorry im to clever for that
    that is why my eight children and 14 grandchildren are all in perfect health and not one of them would my wife and I allow barbaric toxic poisons to enter their bodies
    unlike the one in 100 children born in the USA with Autism
    As I said before if you have nothing intelligent to say
    bugger off and annoy someone else gullible enough to listen to your idiocy
    Will Perth
    Western Australia

    • greg June 14, 2013 at 14:11 #

      How about now, a few years later, after she’s clearly been outed and it’s actually a hoax? Maybe next time you won’t be such a blowhard.

    • Thomas June 5, 2022 at 23:26 #

      “As I said before if you have nothing intelligent to say
      bugger off and annoy someone else gullible enough to listen to your idiocy”

      Dude: Sullivan didn’t go to the cesspool that you infest to tell you facts that you don’t like to hear. You came here with your incoherent lies; Sullivan and the rest of the normal world has every right to refute you.

  6. Dedj July 31, 2010 at 17:19 #

    I did ask for evidence Will. Insults are not evidence.

    You will present some evidence in your next post.

    “bugger off and annoy someone else gullible enough to listen to your idiocy”

    Mate, you are the one that came to this website, and you are the one that does not appear to have a posting history here.

    You are a classic case. Nothing you can say or do will change who you are and how you think. You are a worthless loudmouth who thinks he knows it all.

    I suggest that you grow up and put up, or bugger off.

    Stop wasting our time.

  7. David N. Brown July 31, 2010 at 21:10 #

    “an extract of the worlds second most toxic substance”

    I assume this is a reference to thimerosal, and quite absurd. It appears that “Will” is from Australia. Australia is home to the box jellyfish, the puffer fish, the stonefish, the cone snail, the blue-ringed octopus, the funnel-web spider, and many notorious poisonous snakes. Is he going to claim thimerosal is more toxic than even one of these creatures?

  8. Mike Stanton August 1, 2010 at 13:19 #

    I decided to check up on Will’s claims. One child died shortly after receiving a flu vaccine in Australia. The post mortem found no evidence of any association between the vaccine and her death. There were reports of fever and convulsions associated with Fluvax in Australia and so it was replaced with another brand that had no association with increased risk of febrile convulsions. Neither Fluvax Junior nor its pediatric replacements, Vaxigrip and Influvac contain thimerosal.

  9. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. August 2, 2010 at 03:08 #

    @ David N. Brown:
    “Is he going to claim thimerosal is more toxic than even one of these creatures?”

    I bloody hope not, for his sake. It’d make him look more of an arse than he already looks!

    @ Will:
    “sorry im to clever for that”
    Evidently, you’re not.

    @ Sullivan:
    “You may notice that I have not called Ms. Jennings a hoax. Neither have other bloggers who have covered this. It is the news stories who are bringing up the “hoax” question.”

    Indeed. It’s entirely possible that she wasn’t hoaxing. It’s entirely possible that this was a psycho-somatic/psychogenic issue going on, that has since resolved itself. The mind can do some funny things to a person: amputees feeling pain in the limb that’s missing; people seeing the face of Christ in a piece of toast; people smelling scents that nobody else can smell; people losing sensation in only a part of their hand and then getting it back again some days or weeks later; indeed, many other sorts of things.

    @ Will:
    “the only movement disorder operating here is your lack of anything intelligent to say”

    No. The only movement disorder here is you’re unwillingness to accept that you were wrong and just bugger off yourself.

  10. David N. Brown August 2, 2010 at 05:50 #

    “It is the news stories who are bringing up the `hoax’ question.”

    The term “hoax” is not applied only to conscious fabrication. For example, the scare caused by Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcast is widely referred to as a “hoax”, though it obviously was not an intentional deception. The overall principle is that a “hoax” does not necessarily require a purposeful act by a single creator, but may instead be “spontaneously generated” out of a cultural milieu. “Bogus Warning” fliers are egregious examples.

    But, it is not a good idea to assume such distinctions in casual discussion!

  11. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. August 2, 2010 at 10:53 #

    @ DNB: good points, David!

  12. Eric February 18, 2011 at 08:07 #

    She is a nothing more than a faker out for money.

    This really bothers me a lot. It is a shame for those unfortunate souls who really have what she pretended to have for a paycheck. She should be seriously ashamed, and all should be appalled by her actions. I have spent a lot of time doing my best to help with working with REAL disabled people my whole life, as my little brother is autistic and people with similar aliments strike a very serious chord with me. For someone to lie so much…it angers me greatly.

    And for those of you who swallow this garbage: Do some research and exercise a little critical thinking before you go blasting people that already have. Don’t believe everything someone says just cause they have a pretty face. Please people, it’s so obvious it really is just sad. The girl need psychological help, not medical.

  13. paul March 30, 2011 at 08:05 #

    Hello all
    I from Poland and i found films with this chearleader on youtube because i have such same symptoms but i didn’t take vacine on the influenza.I’m 21.and  first symptoms got two years ago.
    I go to hospital to neurologist only.First time i was sent to psyhiatry becauce doctor think that it is psychogene.I consider that i have dystonia as american chearleader bat i only didn’t diagnosed.
    I can go to back!I can go to back on stairs , But i can’t go to forward normaly but i normal run.
    I think that chearleader not pretended and she not got from vacine.
    Maybe i suffer on to same this woman.
    I so sorry for my english.I think that we will understend!!

  14. Brad May 3, 2017 at 20:19 #

    It’s called conversion disorder. It’s not just from the injection. Mine was triggered by a vitamin b injection. My nervous system is hyperactive and injecting a high dose of vitamin b triggered my brain to cause dystonia and myoclonus for almost two years. It’s a very confusing disorder because it doesn’t show up on any tests. Stress and anxiety can trigger it. So if you confront someone with a camera it can cause the signals in her brain to go bananas. I’m still learning how all this works. Today I woke up and couldn’t walk well but for two weeks I was totally normal. So before you judge people with a disorder you don’t understand try to learn about it. This disorder is terrible and we are helpless until we detect patterns of things we were doing before it got triggered.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 20, 2017 at 19:57 #

      She had no physical disorder. If you suffer from the same issue as Desiree Jennings, seek mental health help.

      That’s not a slam. Just a statement of fact.


  1. Shaking and Seizures As a Vaccine Reaction - VAXOPEDIA - January 14, 2021

    […] the cheerleader who developed “dystonia” after her flu vaccine during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic? The one […]

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