An illness has forced Chris Russell, an optometrist who has served the Brandon area for more than a decade, to shut his practice, Studio Eyes Optical on Lithia Pinecrest Road.
Russell, 49, was diagnosed with Miller Fisher syndrome, a rare nerve disease, earlier this month. Considered to be a variant of Guillain-Barré syndrome, the disease can often lead to temporary paralysis and muscle weakness, according to the National Institutes of Health. With treatment, it can take up to six months to recover.
Russell first noticed a problem while on a flight to Las Vegas a few weeks ago, he said. He experienced numbing in his hands and an aching back which soon progressed into trouble walking.
After a couple of trips to the emergency room, a neurologist at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa diagnosed him with the syndrome. Russell said his doctors believe it may be a reaction from the flu vaccine he received in October.
Russell got the vaccine at the urging of his doctor. Now, he regrets it.
"I'm going to be the biggest advocate of never getting the flu shot ever," he said. "It scared me, I thought it was going to end on a very negative note, worse than what it is."
Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control, declined to comment on Russell's situation but said "reactions to the influenza vaccine are exceedingly rare."
"Vaccination is the single most important thing people can do to protect themselves from influenza and we know influenza can be life threatening, particularly for children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system," he said.
Skinner advises that those with concerns about possible side effects from any kind of vaccine contact their doctor.
For treatment, Russell is undergoing plasmapheresis, a procedure that separates antibodies from his blood.
With his dexterity already coming back, he hoped to be out of the hospital this week. A full recovery is expected, though he has many weeks of physical therapy still ahead of him.
As a result, his business, at 3466 Lithia Pinecrest Road, will close on Saturday.
"I love my community," he said about closing shop. "I feel bad."
Russell has arranged for Kent Sieboldt, of Brandon Family Eye Care at 311 Noland Drive, to accommodate his current patients. Sieboldt's office can be reached at (813) 685-2646.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.