My name is Carmen and I was a healthy, vibrant, robust, 42-year-old woman before my COVID vaccine. I was in the best shape of my life. I worked really hard on keeping my body strong and never got sick. I enjoyed my job and was looking to purchase my first home. I worked as a Senior Manager for a large Melbourne-based not-for-profit health organisation.
Early on in the pandemic they announced an organisation-wide mandate across our workforce, whether you were working clinically, back of house or from home, and we had to be fully vaccinated to continue our employment. As soon as I heard that the government were rolling out the vaccine I had concerns, as I knew that they were in clinical trial stages and that the manufacturers were protected with no recourse if anything happened. I didn’t want to catch COVID and had some concerns regarding the Delta strain that was being spoken of at the time, as my dad is elderly and a smoker. So I convinced myself that it was the right thing to do for myself and to keep my job. The date my employer had set for us having the first vaccine was approaching and I couldn’t get an appointment at my GP clinic in time. I was trying to be brave and felt nervous about having it as I was recovering from a high-grade injury to my calf which was still healing and quite swollen. But I had spoken to my GP in the weeks prior and they said that it was safe for me to get vaccinated while recovering from my injury.
On 6 September 2021 my dad and I went to our local Chemist Warehouse and I had the AstraZeneca vaccine in my left arm. I felt fine immediately after. That evening I started to experience quite severe flu like symptoms – hot and cold, run down and fatigued. This continued for four days, after which I started to feel better and thought that this was normal post-vaccine. On 15 September I was walking down the street and, out of nowhere, was doubled over with a 10 out of 10 pain. It felt like something had exploded in my stomach. I managed to get myself home where the unbearable pain continued. I had severe headaches, stomach and body aches – like the flu had come back, but with a vengeance. I was scared as the nurses at the chemist had told me to look out for flu like symptoms up to one week after having had AstraZeneca.
I did a Telehealth call with my GP, the one who told me it was safe for me. I could tell right away that she was rattled and told me that if I didn’t improve in the next 24 hours, to go to Emergency. The next two days were a blur and I was in a malaise with a constant 8 out of 10 pain. I could hardly walk and had no energy to get out of bed. I went to St Vincent’s ED which was a COVID hotspot at the time. I was told on arrival that if I went in there, I would have to isolate for 14 days and that I should go to my GP for tests instead. I got an Uber to my GP clinic and called them on the way.
The receptionist told me to come straight in and that my doctor would see me right away. When I arrived they ushered me into her office and said, “We won’t do these tests here, you need to go back to ED”. I told her what happened at St Vincent’s but she didn’t seem to care and told me to try a different hospital. Again, I got an Uber, this time to the Royal Melbourne. I told the triage nurse what had happened thus far and that I’d had my AstraZeneca vaccine a week earlier and believed that it was the cause of my issues. I sat in ED for over an hour doubled in pain. When I saw a doctor, the first thing he said to me was, “It is good you got the AstraZeneca. It was definitely the right thing to do,” praising me for getting vaccinated. He was saying this whilst I was holding my bloated tummy, and was so fatigued I could barely keep my eyes open, and I thought, “What a strange thing to say”. He then went on to lecture me that I should not be there and should have had tests at my GP clinic. I remember thinking, “I am so sick, why won’t anyone help me?”
This experience was horrific, I felt so degraded and have never felt so insignificant. I now know what marginalised people feel like.
The doctor sent me to the short stay ward where they tried numerous times to take blood from me. I was yellow, had sunken veins and felt like my body was shutting down. It was very difficult for them to do this, it took a long time and they had multiple attempts, messing up my hand up in the process. After they took the blood to send for testing, I went to the toilet and my body simultaneously eliminated everything, all yellow in colour. At the same time, I got my period, which was not due. I felt like I was going to die. I was trying to keep it together while waiting for the nurses to come back. When they did the D-dimer I was positive, which they didn’t believe so they ordered the test again. They proceeded to mess around with my hand again, which was sore and bruised at this stage, trying to get more blood. Not surprisingly, the D-dimer was positive again, meaning the D-dimer level in my body was higher than normal and suggested that I may have blood clots.
I was then admitted to the COVID ward to a vacuum-sealed ‘COVID cell’, as they are called, even though I had produced a negative COVID test on arrival. I was given Panadol and monitored overnight, and woke feeling a little bit better. I had spoken with friends on the phone overnight and they were praying for me. I had good support over the phone as no visitors were allowed. The doctor said to me the next morning that they were very busy overnight with COVID patients and ‘people like you’. This was said in such a derogatory way. It was obvious that they were admitting people with vaccine injuries from what I was seeing and hearing on the ward.
They ran my D-dimer test again, which came back negative this time, so I was discharged and sent home. I went straight back to the GP clinic as I was still so sick with severe nausea, brain fog and abdominal pain. The GP ordered a CT of my abdomen to look at my organs and found an enlarged liver. She said that would be why I felt so sick and that it was ‘bad luck’, but it should recover on its own and it would be safe for me to get the second vaccine when it was due.
The date from my employer for the second vaccine was looming and obviously I didn’t want it, given what had happened. I asked her about an exemption, and she said I was not eligible with my current symptoms as they weren’t severe enough. I had to have had a cardiac episode or anaphylaxis to be eligible. She said it wouldn’t happen to me again and recommended I have the Pfizer vaccine this time as it was lower risk.
So on this advice, and again, to keep my job, I got my second COVID vaccine, this time Pfizer, on 5 October 2021 in my left arm. I had it in the GP rooms with the GP and nurse present. I had been seeing doctors from the same clinic treating me for my reaction after the first. Again, that evening I experienced flu symptoms, which again lasted four days then went away. After this time, I started to get rashes all over and my stomach issues and fatigue continued.
So far, I have become allergic to most of my personal products – hair products, mascara, deodorants, hair dye, fake tan – just about everything. I get rashes and dermatitis. I have switched to more natural products, which have helped a little. I went back to the GP clinic again for the developing sensitivities and on-going abdominal pain and fatigue. They did more bloods, which came back all clear. I had an ultrasound of my stomach, which showed a lot of gas was present, and I was told that I had IBS.
At this point I was trying to work from home and had taken a bit of time off for appointments and because I was too unwell to focus. I was so tired and angry every day as I was having to down-regulate my emotions while working. It wasn’t my team’s fault, so I was putting on my smile and getting on with it, but this took all of my energy. I was so depleted it started affecting my mental health and my ability to deal with complex concepts at work, which would normally come naturally to me. It was like the gears wouldn’t turn in my brain. Then there was a further direction from my employer that the booster vaccine was mandated. I spoke with my boss about what had happened to me and that I could not get an exemption. He agreed that this was totally wrong and spoke to the executive clinical director. He arranged for me to see one of ‘their’ doctors. I went to see him and told him my story to date.
He confirmed that I am not eligible for an exemption as I do not fall into the severe category of reactions and that mine are not significant enough! He said that the Victorian Specialist Immunisation Service (VSIS) is overwhelmed with severe cases so he can’t refer me there either. I requested a letter from him saying that I cannot be referred to VSIS and that I am not eligible for exemption. He gave me a letter to this effect. He also arranged for me to have a breath test for my gastrointestinal issues. This had not been suggested before by any other doctors, so he sent me off for that. It came back positive for a bug called Helicobacter pylori.
I was given two types of antibiotics that protect my gut lining and felt a bit better over the next week. I had gone from swirling nausea to low level, but still daily and still fatigue and abdominal pain persisted, as did the rashes.
I could not risk my health again by having a booster vaccine. After four weeks of these antibiotics I went back to my usual GP and did the breath test again and it was all clear this time. I was really frustrated at this point as I was still sick!
Prior to this appointment I had done my own research on exemptions and, using the ‘acute’ criteria for people who have had adverse vaccine reactions, I showed the GP a video that Senator Gerard Rennick had done about this.
She said, “Ok then, I will do an exemption for you and bump you up to the acute symptoms category. But I won’t do it now. I will do it after work today”. I felt very relieved. I called the next day as I hadn’t heard anything and was told that the GP wanted to see me again. I went back in, she told me that she now couldn’t put me into the acute category as my symptoms did not fit there. I said to her, “I am still sick, how can you say it is safe for me to get a booster vaccine?” She said she didn’t know much about gastrointestinal issues but could refer me to another doctor who did….
Before I could get in to see this new GP, on 29 March 2022 I was sacked from my job for not getting my booster vaccine in time. I had tried desperately to comply with my employer’s order, was injured because of the compliance and got sacked anyway!!
I grew up in a family where no one went to university. I worked my backside off throughout my life serving the community, and now I felt as though I have been marginalised and treated so badly by the government, my employer, and the health care system. It has taken me five doctors before I found one who would actually listen to me and now felt as though my heart had been ripped out. I was at such a low point and I still had to wait a month before I could get in to see the next doctor.
When I did, he got me to do a different breath test for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). He thought that my story and symptoms were consistent with this condition and said he has been treating a lot of vaccine injured and had seen a lot of this and was confident he could help me. The test came back positive and he put me straight on to a supplement regime to prepare my gut for three courses of strong antibiotics, with three weeks break between each. Following this he would put me on prokinetic agents, which are herbal compounds that will help to heal my small intestine and gut.
He believed that SIBO has been causing my rashes, brain fog, enlarged liver, and that the SIBO has come about because my immune system is so dysregulated it does not know friend from foe. It attacks healthy bugs and lets bad ones into the blood stream. He has also put me on a low FODMAP diet, which is helping.
I am tough and will get through this. During this experience I have gone from being completely in control and knowing my body, fuelling it properly and exercising regularly, to feeling like I have no control over my body or my life since the vaccine. When I posted things about what I was experiencing online, I received so much hate and had ‘friends’ making such insensitive comments, which was very surprising and most hurtful. The leadership and propaganda in this country has been dividing us, it is so sad.
To date I now have high blood pressure, which I never had before, and have discomfort and low-level heartburn along with extreme fatigue and brain fog. Some of my hair has fallen out, my skin is sallow, and my muscles are lax. I eat 1200 calories per day and exercise gently in an attempt to keep my weight down. I feel like I have an unpleasant odour all the time as these conditions give you flatulence and body odour. I am like a toxic waste dump with all of these toxins in my blood from my gut. I have been seeing a counsellor, have good support from family and friends who understand this, but have lost so many ‘friends’ through the process, including my relationship. I am not eligible for the compensation scheme as my injuries are not ‘severe enough’. The guidelines for exemption and compensation are just too stringent. Gastrointestinal issues post-vaccine are not on the ATAGI reactions form, but are in Pfizer’s own report. I have spent over $28K in savings and in loss of wages and these savings were part of my house deposit. I have applied for many jobs with no outcome yet. My biggest sticking point is that my employer mandated me into a clinical trial, which ethics would not allow in normal times. This mandating is unconscionable. Get vaccinated and get injured – but you’re not eligible for anything and there is no support.
There is no other vaccine in history that has done this much damage to people. I have emailed every politician out there. No response from Dan Andrew’s office, the Premier of my State. The Greens and Scott Morrison’s offices responded saying that they support heath orders. Did they even read my email? Fiona Pattern put me on to her Chief of Staff who said, “You should go back to your GP now because all the anti-vaxxers trying to get exemptions should have died down by now, you might have better luck getting one”!
I have spoken out, as I would like to raise awareness in the hope that others who are suffering with gastrointestinal issues and have a low quality of life, might see my story and symptoms and be searching for answers. These things haven’t just happened out of the blue. It is because of the COVID vaccine. I hope that people realise that these breath tests are available. They have changed and improved my quality of life and allowed me to get a diagnosis. It just took me such a long time and five doctors to get there! I have reported reactions of both vaccines to the TGA and have case numbers. My basic learning has been that ‘people that care, can’t help and people that can help, don’t care’.