My name is Brooke, I’m 27 years old. I was 26 when I had the first COVID vaccine. I was an active healthy mum of three young girls all while working part-time as a disability support worker and studying mental health. I never had any health issues prior to the vaccine and I was living my best life.
I was never for or against the COVID vaccine, I Just had my concerns. We just didn’t feel comfortable that this was being pushed on us the way it was. I never heard anything bad about the vaccine as we were one of the first to get it, but something just didn’t feel right and I didn’t want it. However, I am a support worker, so we did as we were told. With a family to feed I had to get myself vaccinated to keep my job.
Regretfully, I supported my client and we went together to get our Pfizer vaccine on 6 September 2021 in my left arm. I felt nothing immediately other than the site of procedure being sore to touch, something which has remained to this day, over one year later.
Within the first few days, I had the ‘normal’ symptoms of headache, fever and cold-like symptoms from which I recovered after a few days. My client also had the same symptoms and recovered, so we thought nothing of it and we went for our second Pfizer vaccination on 7 October 2021 also in my left arm.
Once again, I felt the pain at the site of injection, but I didn’t come down with the flu-like symptoms this time. One week passed and I was still suffering with pain at the vaccination site, and I had a numb arm, shoulder pain, loss of movement in the arm, pins and needles, and worst of all, a burning sensation. My arm is slightly swollen, red, and burns constantly to this day. The burning area is visible a couple centimetres right of the injection site.
Three weeks later the symptoms kept getting worse. I couldn’t lift my arm past my shoulder, and I had increased hot and cold sensitivity in my left arm. It was very sore to touch. I booked a GP appointment and presented my symptoms and straight away told him that this was from the vaccine. He did not entertain the idea that it was the COVID vaccine. He just ignored any suggestion or questions I had about it and made the assumption that I injured my shoulder even though I assured him I hadn’t.
The way I was treated was the beginning of a never-ending cycle of gaslighting. The next week I was sent for an ultrasound which revealed bursitis and inflammation at the shoulder joint of the arm. They also said I had a swollen C3 and C4 which is inflammation of the neck part of my spine.
I was prescribed anti-inflammatories and pain relief, but the pain never got better. In fact, it got worse. I could not sleep, I could not eat, I was tormented every day with a burning flare-up on my arm. It literally feels like my arm is on fire and as mentioned before, the pins and needles, numbness, and weakness was overwhelming.
I admitted myself to hospital on 25 November 2021 for two nights by catching an Uber as I was in no state to drive. I had extreme burning sensations that got worse by the minute. The pain was so crippling I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was just trying to control myself as my arm felt like it was on fire. I arrived at the ED desperate for pain relief from the burning sensation I was feeling. I was put in a rehabilitation ward for the elderly. The nurses even commented they had never seen a birthday so young on the ward!
Long story short I was drugged up for this period with no answers or relief. I just slept and cried through the pain and the drugs blurred my days into nights. The doctors and nurses were so confused and conflicted about my symptoms. They ran blood tests which came back normal apart from low iron. I was discharged as an outpatient because there was nothing more they could do for me.
I questioned the doctors whether the COVID vaccine had something to do with my pain and I got no answers. “We just don’t know,” they would say, and they referred me to the vaccine adverse reaction clinic at Sir Charles Gardener Hospital and told me to see my GP to get a nerve conduction test.
I was discharged with buprenorphine, duloxetine and tapentonal to manage the pain. The only explanation is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) which is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. CRPS typically develops after an injury, a surgery, a stroke, or a heart attack. The pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury. As they dismissed all my questions, it only left more unanswered.
The referral went through six long months later, after filing an urgent request. I was surprised there was even an adverse reaction clinic but also by the lengthy period I had to wait in this crippling condition. While waiting to see the adverse reaction clinic, I went to see my GP to get the nerve conduction test done. The doctor had no sympathy for me whatsoever, he ran some cotton tips over my skin on the arm that was burning and sent some electrical signals down my arm to see how much I could take. But he didn’t even do it past my elbow which is where the pain comes from. He basically stopped and told me he couldn’t help me and that I didn’t have nerve damage and he couldn’t treat me any further.
During the six months wait to see the adverse reaction clinic, my only option was to see my GP who I saw once every two weeks. My GP found my iron was low, so we did an iron transfusion. It has improved my general health but not the burning sensations I was experiencing. This experience was traumatising after what happened to me with the COVID vaccine. I also had a bone-muscular scan which didn’t reveal any damage. I had an ultrasound on my shoulder which still showed I had bursitis, and this still shows up to this day.
As time passed, I had to put my arm in a sling because my shoulder was unable to support my arm, it felt like someone was sitting on my shoulder while my arm weighed 100kg which gave me a pulling sensation on my arm. When I finally got to see the adverse reaction clinic, the doctor looked at my medication. I was taking Lyrica, which he took me off and instead put me on gabapentin.
I have been seeing the adverse reaction clinic on an ongoing basis for three months now. Overall, even though they are trying to help, they have done nothing to improve my symptoms. In fact, it’s getting worse by the day and I’m taking more medication than I was before. Basically, it’s more or less a management clinic, they haven’t given me any new tests or tried to solve any problem. They just give me more medications. They have stated that this is a COVID vaccine injury on paper, but they are saying it was because it was administered incorrectly.
Not only am I left reliant on drugs that I can’t function or work on, I am left with no reassurance my life will get back to normal. My family and I are now suffering due to an adverse reaction from a vaccine I didn’t want and now I’m paying for it. I have received no sympathy, empathy, or acknowledgement that I am suffering. I am now bitter, sad and full of questions. Why me?
As of a month ago, I had to quit work due to the unbearable pain and with the cost of living and treatment it has left a big hole in my pocket.
I tried to take legal avenues but so far, I have been rejected twice and have a case pending which I’m not too hopeful about. There are no answers and no help, and no end in sight at this point other than the community that I’m speaking to now.
I had no idea that this could happen to me. I have felt so alone. I have been silenced by friends, my job, and social media, all telling me my injury isn’t real. It has taken a toll on my mental health, but I won’t be silenced, and I know that I am not alone even though I have felt this way.