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Las Vegas 18-year-old still hospitalized after suffering rare, severe reaction to J&J vaccine

1 of 6 cases being investigated by CDC
Emma Burkey Johnson & Johnson vaccine severe reaction
Posted at 3:33 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 15:33:41-04

LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas 18-year-old is in a fight for her life after suffering an extremely rare and severe case of blood clots after receiving Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, according to family friends.

Family friends have identified 18-year-old Emma Burkey as one of the six cases of clotting in the U.S. that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating in connection with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“She started having seizures, then they took her to the hospital, and then they realized she had blood clots in the brain,” said Bret Johnson, a family friend who says he is in constant contact with Burkey's parents.

Luckily, Burkey's condition is improving.

“She’s starting to realize what has happened to her, where she is, slowly,” Johnson said.

Things weren’t always as promising.

“For a while there, her situation and condition was completely unknown. Very scary and very iffy, honestly,” Johnson said.

Burkey was first treated at St. Rose Hospital in Henderson, Nevada, where she was in an induced coma and on a ventilator.

Later, she was airlifted to Loma Linda Hospital in Southern California where she remains with her family.

The FDA and the CDC recommended a pause in the use of the vaccine last week after confirming six cases of a rare but severe blood clot disorder that happened after the patients had the shot. About 7 million people in the U.S. had safely received a dose of the J&J vaccine prior to the pause.

So far, the clotting had only presented in patients that suffered from thrombocytopenia — low levels of blood platelets — and those who had histories of blood clotting issues.

“This situation really rocked us to the core,” said Heiden Ratner, another family friend.

Ratner is the senior pastor at WALK Church, where Burkey is in the kid's ministry. Ratner says Burkey has also babysat his family's children.

“We were challenged, we were confused, and it drove us to prayer,” Ratner said.

The community has launched a GoFundMe for the Burkey family which surpassed its $10,000 goal in just four days.

This story was originally published by Austin Carter on KTNV in Las Vegas.