Prior to August 2021, I was enjoying my life in south-west Sydney. I was fit and healthy and incorporated gym workouts and walking in my exercise routines. On weekends, I loved going on bush walks and to the beach. I’m an active person and I loved my job! I worked in building management and had an excellent rapport with the residents. They were a lovely community of people to serve, and the connection meant a lot to me, and they treated me like family. We had a grand opening to celebrate the opening of the building and it was great to be a part of that. This field of work offered exciting new prospects. Little did I know that things were about to dramatically change when harsh restrictions and mandates were put in place in Sydney in 2021.
Mid-year 2021, the Pfizer vaccine was mandated for work, and south-west Sydney, now a hot spot had local government areas (LGAs) strictly defined to manage the pandemic. The building I managed was in a different LGA from my home. The pressure built to get the vaccination especially if you left your own LGA as an essential worker, which I was classified as. The police were treating people appallingly in the area I lived and there was a lot of fear in the community. I felt torn as I was for free choice and didn’t want to be forced. I was hesitant as there wasn’t much information available at the time about any potential risks.
I felt like I had good immunity as I’m very healthy, but to keep my building management role, I had my first Pfizer vaccination on 23rd of August 2021. Three hours after having it I developed chills, aches, and pains and an all over weakness in the body. The bad flu-like symptoms lingered for the rest of the week. At the start, I was sure it would pass, and my GP advised to rest and take the week off work to recover. He suggested Nurofen.
On the 3rd of September 2021 the flu like symptoms lingered but I pushed myself to go to work. I noticed that when I took the fire stairs there was a tightness in my chest which I had never experienced before. It was out of character as I usually could run the stairs. I was completely unsure what was happening. I hadn’t heard or read anything about pericarditis. The pain in my chest was sharp and it was a 10 out of 10 in severity. I thought I would collapse. Immediately, I phoned my GP who advised me to go to the nearest hospital. I took myself to the St. George Hospital. As soon as I reached the reception clutching my painful chest, the medics rushed me in to the COVID ward as I was from a ‘red zone’. It was full of patients. I was terrified of my situation as I had lots of pain and felt extremely sick, unlike I had ever experienced before.
The medics took the situation seriously and believed that COVID had caused the issue. The nurse would not engage in any conversation about the Pfizer vaccine being the possible cause. They carried out a stress test, an ECG and took my blood pressure. I was delirious and I wanted to leave but the doctor on duty convinced me that I urgently needed medical attention. I had a CT scan which showed an issue with the heart, and I was placed on a drip as I was extremely dehydrated. Six hours later, after testing and the drip emptied, I was discharged from the hospital as I did not have COVID. My blood pressure was down and so I felt less sick. The doctor advised me to go home, rest and visit my GP to get a referral to a cardiologist. She did not want to give a diagnosis.
For the next couple of weeks, I rested on the lounge. I felt fatigued emotionally and physically, and I didn’t understand my heart issues yet. My cardiologist appointment was two or three weeks away and I was concerned about work. On 17th of September 2021, I decided to go in to work. I travelled by train to do an inspection of the building. I was walking around a lot and by the time I returned home, I felt exhausted and then started to feel chest pains once again.
I then presented to my doctor’s after-hours service and the doctor did an ECG. Based on the results he immediately called an ambulance. I was taken this time to Bankstown Hospital and a cannula was inserted whilst in the ambulance. Again, I was taken into the COVID ward and tests were carried out. My blood tests showed sky high inflammation markers and another ECG and blood tests were done. But again, the medics didn’t want to diagnose. They didn’t speculate that it was from the Pfizer vaccine but rather that I may have got it from COVID. After five hours the results came back covid negative and I was again discharged with advice to rest and go to the cardiologist’s appointment.
The next few months were a roller coaster of cardiologist and GP appointments. All in all, I had three cardiologist appointments and went to my GP every two weeks to manage my condition. I was diagnosed with pericarditis by the cardiologist and placed on heart medication for four months in total. The cardiologist was a brilliant, humble doctor and validated my heart condition. He treated me with respect and acknowledged it was from the Pfizer vaccine and wrote it in a statement. He told me he had many female patients in my age range who previously had no history of heart conditions until the vaccination. He treated the condition seriously.
My health was monitored with regular checks of blood pressure, inflammation markers and ECGs. On the second appointment at the cardiologist, I was hooked up to a Holter monitor for 24 hours. The medications wiped me out as they were strong, but I was encouraged to keep on them to help my heart. By December 2021, with rest and medication the pericarditis resolved, and I was able to get off the medications which was a relief.
My life had improved but it was not perfect. The impact on my health has been devastating as I have lost my financial independence and sense of purpose, not to mention self-esteem and connection to the community through my job. As time went on, I was unable to fulfil my role as a building manager to the high standard I once had, and this placed pressure on others. At first my hours were reduced, then later I made the decision to resign. My general well-being had changed, and the fatigue and lack of stamina persisted. I had been fearful the last few months to not push myself too much. I had lost weight and muscle tone. During this time, my left shoulder had become frozen due to lack of activity, and I was unable to lift my arm. For the next six months, I went to see a physiotherapist weekly to manage the recovery and get exercises to improve the range of movement.
In July 2022, unfortunately I caught COVID as my immune system had been hit hard by the vaccine. Again, I was hit with flu like symptoms. I couldn’t get out of bed for a week. Because of the pericarditis, a doctor and the nurses from NSW Health checked on me daily through Telehealth. Then I developed long COVID and two months later, after experiencing tightness in the chest, I was found to have a partially collapsed lung. I had never had asthma before, but I was prescribed Ventolin to help.
Since then, I have started some natural therapies to boost my immunity and take steps to recalibrate my life. I have started to get back into walking in nature and doing light gym exercises. I love dancing and have been out with friends a few times, I feel my stamina is gradually returning. I have a very close relationship with my eldest daughter who is 27, and she has given me a lot of support and understanding. She herself was COVID vaccine injured, and her story was published by JI Australia last year.
I share my story to spread awareness of what has happened to me after taking the COVID vaccine. It’s a huge injustice that these were forced on the community at large. They were rushed and the risks were great and unknown. It was frustrating that there was a lack of information on the risks of the COVID vaccines early on, and that diagnosis and treatment for pericarditis was, in my case, delayed. I have registered my adverse reaction with the TGA myself and have filed a compensation claim with Medicare, but they have not approved it and have asked me for more evidence and the paperwork is endless and very stressful.