I was 19 when I had the jab. I’m 20 now. I was an elite professional equestrian athlete prior to the jab. I’d won multiple championships and I’m obsessed with horses. As well as riding, I have always been insanely into fitness, running, going to the gym, and riding motorbikes. I had also played touch football for the Newcastle Knights and had represented my school in many different sports. My immune system had always been excellent. I was never sick and I had no pre-existing conditions. The only medication I took was the contraceptive pill, which I’d been on for about 12 months prior to the jab.
I started an office job in June, 2021. My manager told me that my role was jab mandated as it came under retail, but I received no written communication from the company about this. I was either told verbally or via text messages that to keep my job I had to be fully vaccinated by the 1st of October, 2021.
Everyone at work knew I did not want this procedure. I’d never had an issue with any other vaccination, and I got the flu vaccine several years back when it was a severe flu season. And at school, I always volunteered to get a vaccine first as I wasn’t scared of them and everyone else was.
This vaccine was different. It was new, still in clinical trials, and its long-term safety was unknown. I worried it would affect my fertility. I remember saying to Mum that if I were old and had all my kids, I wouldn’t be nearly as hesitant or fazed about this.
Around this time, a good friend got myocarditis after their jab and another friend (a surfer) ended up with pericarditis. I could see that things were happening to people. My dad is a police officer and was jab-hesitant himself. He told me he had written on his consent form that he doesn’t consent to taking it and disagrees with the mandate.
To keep my job, I went ahead and had the first jab on Thursday, 30th September, 2021 (left arm). Afterwards, I had a fever, headache, body aches, and nausea, but the doctor had warned this was normal, so I didn’t worry too much. On Friday, 1st October, my boss called to say I couldn’t return to work until I was fully vaccinated. I was put on leave without pay from the 4th October until I could provide my vaccine passport. I didn’t look for another job as the vaccine was required everywhere. I felt I had no other choice but to risk the second jab, so I went and got it on Thursday, 21st October (left arm).
I had no immediate reaction but woke up at midnight sweating profusely. I felt as if I had run a marathon because my muscles and joints were so painful. I struggled to move. I began to vomit. I couldn’t walk or straighten my arms. I was feverish, had sore eyes, an insane headache, all-over weakness, and a severe pain in the left side of my chest. My heart raced and I could feel my pulse through my entire body. Breathing was painful and I could only take short gasps of air. I was in so much pain I was crying. I felt like I was dying. I told Mum and called Dad in the morning. Dad said to go to the doctor and get checked out and that he’d meet me there (I also called my boss to let her know). The doctor was super concerned as I was visibly unwell and my blood pressure was really high.
I had my bloods taken immediately after the consult and they were sent express to Newcastle lab. I burst into tears after the blood tests—which is unlike me—so Dad was really worried. We got Nurofen and electrolytes from the chemist afterwards. As I drove home, the GP called to say I needed to go straight to the hospital due to abnormalities in my blood. He told me my D-dimer level was off the charts (I didn’t know what that meant, so I Googled it on the way and found it was the test for blood clots).
I rang my parents and cried as I drove myself to Gosford Hospital. I arrived at 1:30pm on the 22nd October. Both my (fully-jabbed) parents were told they couldn’t come into the hospital due to Covid restrictions. They did tests and scans and Mum was on the phone asking me what they were doing. But I couldn’t understand what was happening or comprehend what they were telling me as I was in a load of pain. I was so emotional and scared that the hospital had to speak on my behalf. I was informed I had blood clots in my lungs, had minimal white blood cells left in my body, and that I had an extremely low immune system. They discharged me at 7pm with limited information, no medical plan, and no discharge summary. I was given blood-thinning medication (Apixaban) and advised I could drive home and that I should rest. They told me I did not need to be hospitalised and that I should continue to see my GP.
The next evening (23rd October) at about 6pm, the pain in my chest grew stronger. I called Dad and he arranged for my brother to pick me up and said that he’d meet me at the hospital. Soon after I arrived, I was admitted to the respiratory ward and the doctor asked if I wanted to say goodbye to my family. I became quite upset because I took it to mean I was dying and may not see them again.
My parents were with me the following morning (24th October) when I was seen by the respiratory physician. He told me that I had a pulmonary embolism. Mum asked him to explain what that was and he said it meant I had blood clots. He then said words to the effect of: ‘On the balance of probabilities, I think the clots are due to the contraceptive pill’ and told me that most clots develop in the legs before moving to the heart and lungs. He said it’s a lifelong issue and if I were to have kids, I’d need medication throughout the entire process to keep the baby and me safe. He told me to avoid all exercise—no horse riding, motorbike riding, or flying—and I was to have complete rest for 6-12 months as my body had just fought for its life.
I had no words. I did not want to be alive at that point. What kind of life is it for a 19-year-old to be told you can’t do anything you love?! I asked my parents to leave the room because I wanted to cry and scream by myself (as I’m not one to show emotion in front of people).
They’d taken multiple blood tests in which they had drawn blood from both arms and my veins were bruised and extremely sore. I’d also lost quite a bit of blood because the blood-thinning medication I’d started two days prior had given me internal bleeding, nose bleeds, and my period had come on and was extremely heavy. I struggled to breathe and was in excruciating pain (for which they gave me Endone). They told me that with the number of clots on my lungs, it’s like trying to breathe with broken ribs. I was never given oxygen or any kind of medical drip the entire time I was there.
Just after 12pm, I was taken for an ultrasound, which found no signs of blood clots in my legs. The nurse who’d scanned my legs apologised for how I was being treated—I didn’t know why she apologised, but I think she’d seen my notes and word had gone around about what happened to me. She said there was no way she’d let her 12-year-old daughter get the jab for this reason and that she only got it to keep her job.
They discharged me at about 7pm that evening saying they couldn’t do anything to help me. They provided me with a medical certificate for work and stated I was unable to drive for the next month due to my jab injury. We were given no advice. Mum knew something was really wrong, so she was asking questions about what could happen. It was explained that I was at high risk of a heart attack if a clot was too big to pass through my heart. I was also at risk of a clot that could go to my brain and kill me instantly. Mum and Dad demanded that the hospital report my adverse event before I left. I then had to find my own specialist.
On the 1st November, my parents and I had an appointment with the doctor who administered both my jabs. We wanted further advice about my jab injury and to ensure he reported my adverse reaction. He said he’d report it to NSW Health but encouraged me to get another GP as he was retiring in a month.
In the days following my hospital discharge, my parents received confirmation from Central Coast Health about the investigation into my jab injury. We attended an online consultation on the 8th November with someone from the NSW vaccine safety panel, along with another doctor who informed me that they’d tested my blood samples.
They ruled out any genetic pre-disposition to blood clotting and noted that my D-dimer results were seven times higher than normal and were ‘alarming.’ I was referred for an emergency haematology appointment, which I had on the 11th of November. He advised that three of the five arteries in my heart were totally blocked. He said I would be on blood thinners for 6-12 months as the clots were significantly large and it would take that long for my body to break them down. He also confirmed I had no clots anywhere other than my heart and lungs.
He’d said my body had gone into attack mode against the jab and that was why I was so sick. He was shocked I wasn’t admitted to hospital the first time I went due to the seriousness of the clotting. He said I should have had two weeks minimum in intensive care. He also said I should have been given oxygen because when pulmonary embolism is not monitored in the initial two-week period, the fatality rate is around 80 percent. He noted that I was lucky to be alive. All this was new information and it scared and shocked me. He explained that when I’m older and want to conceive, I’ll need injections in my stomach every day: three months prior to trying, during the entire pregnancy, and three months post-partum. He said it is no longer possible for me to have kids naturally.
I bled heavily for three weeks after I began taking Apixaban—it was so heavy that I wore a maternity pad and a super tampon that needed changing after 20 minutes. Blood would also pour from me in the shower. I’d never seen anything like it. It then stopped for a week before going through two heavy cycles for two weeks and then stopping for two weeks. Then it completely stopped for around six months. It’s returned to normal (light flow that lasts for three-to-four days) in the last few months.
Now that I’m at an extreme clotting risk, I can’t have any contraception. I stopped taking the blood thinners in May as my clots had completely dissolved. I’d also been going to a naturopath the entire time and was taking vitamins and supplements. I still experience extreme fatigue and my arteries are permanently scarred. After I shared what happened on my social media last year, my story blew up and I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without people knowing who I was—I’d become a famous sick kid overnight. Even going to the bakery to get bread, I’d be approached by strangers who knew my name and what had happened to me. I developed really bad social anxiety over this time because of it (which I’d never had before) and didn’t want to leave the house.
AFL lawyers heard my story after it gained traction. They contacted Mum and told her that my case was strong as it had gone worldwide and that they wanted me to lead the class action against the mandates. We agreed. Mum and Dad signed the paperwork that stated that if we were to lose, I would not be held accountable for any legal fees. I understood that funding would come from donations or had already been raised.
I gave my statement on the 15th of December, 2021 and provided all my medical records to them. We lost the case, and although the news article states I owe money, that’s not true—I owe nothing. I didn’t attended court; I wasn’t required to and my lawyers went for me. I didn’t really want to hear about it, so I didn’t pay much attention. I was trying to recover and was not in the mindset to listen to anything about it. It dragged on for 10 months—I just wanted to move on. My lawyers said that although there were other stories read out, the judge listened intently to my story and had looked saddened about it. On the 31st August, I woke up to my Instagram blowing up because of articles the media had written about me and the case. I felt angry they’d slandered my name and said things about me that weren’t true. It felt like a slap in the face.
I applied for Work Cover, but my work had only processed it a few months ago. We heard back last week that it was declined, so we are appealing. They state I wasn’t mandated, but communications I have from my manager say otherwise—I was stood down without pay and was told not to return to work or enter the premises until I provided proof that I was fully vaccinated. I haven’t gone back to my job as they’ve wanted me to return full-time (8am-6pm, six days per week) and I’m unable to do that. They stated last week, however, that they can accommodate a gradual return to work to aid the transition to full-time. I’d also applied for the Government Compensation Scheme and have heard nothing. It’s ‘still in review,’ six months on from my application.
One year later
Well, for my friends and family, this week might have been the one-year anniversary of my death. The date I had my second jab (the 21st of October, 2021) will forever hold a special place in my heart because it became my second chance at life. I will never forget the pain, being too scared to close my eyes at night and knowing I’d had an 80 percent chance they wouldn’t open for me the next morning.
From never having a single prior health issue, I became something I never thought I’d become: a ‘sick kid’ being wheeled around a hospital. I was told I was no longer allowed to do everything I loved doing: drive my car, ride my horses and motorbike, fly on planes, and exercise. I was told I could never conceive a child naturally. I took all these things for granted. Although this chapter of hardship changed me, I didn’t let it define me. It shaped me into the better person I am today. I will never make a ‘full recovery’ but I’ve learnt this is the new me and there are things I have to do differently in my future, and that’s okay. If someone tells you that you can’t do something, take it in, but don’t take it on board. Prove them wrong. Life’s too short. Do what you want, say what you want, and tell people you love them. Tomorrow is never promised.
How bloody great is it to be alive!
Cienna – October 2022.