I’m 29 and a national account manager for a publishing company in Sydney. Before I got the COVID vaccine, I was a very fit 28-year-old. I had just completed a fitness challenge called ‘75 Hard’ which is a super strict program, encompassing diet, mental challenge and physical fitness. I had no prior health issues. I was quite social, always out seeing friends and trying new restaurants.
I didn’t want to get the vaccine, because it bothered me that so little testing had been done, especially for long term effects. I decided to delay it as long as I could. We had multiple lockdowns in Sydney, but at the end of a four month lockdown in 2021, the vaccine passport was brought in. This meant you had to be double vaccinated to get into most venues. You also couldn’t cross state borders without the vaccination. I hadn’t seen my family in years and felt like getting it was the only way to see them and to come out of lockdown and back to my full, normal life. I was also living in the same house as my partner’s grandparents and so felt a responsibility to them to not put them at risk, especially as health officials were constantly telling us that we were putting other people at risk if we didn’t get vaccinated.
On 25th September 2021, I went to the Homebush pop-up clinic and was given my first Pfizer vaccine in my left arm. There were hundreds of people filing through and it felt very clinical. It was over quickly and I felt a bit on edge. Immediately I didn’t notice any effects, so I went home hoping for the best.
I went for my second Pfizer vaccine on 16th October 2021. This was also in my left arm. Like the first time, I had no effects on the day. I actually tried to go out for dinner that night, because I had now had my second vaccine. The venue wouldn’t accept my printed passport and the digital version didn’t upload until 24 hours later.
It wasn’t until two weeks later that I noticed my heart was beating super hard. I could actually see it thumping in my chest. It was happening when I was just sitting down and would subside after a few minutes. I hadn’t experienced anything like this before and it felt like something was not right. This kept happening a few times a week over the next month of November. I started tracking my heart rate and it was all over the place, so I booked a GP appointment.
The GP booked me in for an echocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests. I mentioned that I had only started experiencing the heart symptoms since the vaccine and she said it was unlikely it was related, but best to proceed with testing anyway. The tests came back showing nothing abnormal. But in my follow up appointment the GP said that I should still do some more in-depth testing. She referred me to a cardiologist.
Christmas came around and I was heading home to Queensland to see my family. I planned to contact the cardiologist when I returned in the new year. At this stage I didn’t have a sense of urgency around my strange heart issues and I was reassured by the clear ECG results.
I returned to New South Wales in time for New Year. In the first week of January 2022, I contracted COVID for the first time. I isolated for seven days per government requirements and was quite sick for the whole week. Two weeks after recovering and coming out of quarantine, I went out to meet up with some friends. Before I arrived, I remember feeling nauseous and faint, like I could pass out. The feeling passed and I had a glass of wine with my friends. Suddenly out of nowhere, I had an intense pain in my chest. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I thought to myself, “I can’t be having a heart attack, I’m only 28!” With every breath and movement, the pain was unbelievable. I was clutching at my chest and I burst into tears. I walked as best as I could to the bathroom to try to collect myself, but I couldn’t stop crying. My friend could see that I was not okay, so she called me an Uber. As I got in the Uber, I realised this was very serious and asked the driver to take me straight to the hospital.
I arrived at Northern Beaches Hospital around 6pm on 22nd of January 2022. My friend was with me in the Uber and her boyfriend came to meet us. He brought me some clothes as I was dressed for a Saturday night out. They weren’t allowed to come in with me, or even to sit with me outside, because of the COVID precautions. Because I was still clutching at my chest, I was taken in fairly quickly. The nurse gave me a COVID test, which came back negative. I was taken to a tent in the carpark and I lay down on the portable bed. They hooked me up to a machine and attached a heart monitor to my finger. I was probably there for 20 minutes, until they moved me inside. As soon as I got inside, they gave me morphine for the pain and ordered a chest X-ray. I felt alone, frightened and overwhelmed.
One strange memory I have from that evening in hospital is that at one point a nurse walked past looking curiously at my monitor. She asked me, “How do you feel right now?“ I said, “I feel fine and calm.” The morphine had kicked in. She looked puzzled and said, “Oh, that’s strange.” I asked why? She said, “Oh don’t worry”, and walked away. I now know that what she was seeing was extreme irregularities in my heartbeat, which I was later diagnosed with by a cardiologist. No one in the hospital mentioned this to me while I was there.
I was in hospital for two nights. The doctor suspected that I had pericarditis and prescribed colchicine which is commonly used to treat pericarditis. When I was discharged, the notes did not mention pericarditis which is strange, because the doctor prescribed the medication for it. No one in the hospital was able to identify what might have caused my pericarditis and irregular heartbeats.
After arriving home from hospital I had to take time off work. As well as on-and-off chest pain, I had persistent irregular heartbeats, extreme fatigue and had to sleep all the time. Luckily, the pain in my chest subsided and became much milder within a couple of weeks. I took the colchicine as directed and also wore a Holter monitor for 24 hours.
My first appointment with the cardiologist was on 15th of February 2022 to get my Holter monitor results and discuss the pericarditis diagnosis. The cardiologist identified my irregular heartbeat which I had had since the beginning of November 2021. He prescribed beta-blockers to slow my heart rate, which helped to even it out and make the intensity of the beats less extreme. However, the side-effects are blurred vision and night terrors. The blurry vision in particular, hindered my ability to do my job and made it dangerous to drive, so I had to discontinue the medication.
The cardiologist acknowledged I was already experiencing heart troubles, the irregular beat, after the vaccine, but he believed that my bout of COVID probably caused the pericarditis. My heart was already struggling by the time I got COVID. We’ll never know if I would have got pericarditis if I hadn’t had the vaccine. He referred me for an MRI to see if there was any scarring on my heart as a result of the pericarditis. I was directed not to do any exercise or drink any alcohol, caffeine or stimulants of any sort for the next month.
From January 2022 to March 2022 I basically stopped living my life and just worked and rested. I cried a lot during this time because I didn’t know how serious my condition was and I didn’t know if I would get better or worse. I was able to resume light exercise at the end of March. I was advised to limit anything that could undermine my heart health, including intense cardio or alcohol.
To my relief, the MRI came back clear of scarring. My pericarditis seems to have largely healed, but the irregular heartbeats have not fully resolved. In September 2022, I did a stress test and the good news is that I can now tolerate intense cardio again. However, I still experience irregular beats at rest, which is an ongoing concern.
My cardiologist has recommended that I come back in six months for further monitoring. I’m glad it’s not a worst-case scenario, but I’m not in the clear yet either. I guess you could say I live with fear of the unknown and I always think to myself, “it wasn’t worth it”.
I wish I’d never had the vaccine. I also think it’s crazy that at 29 years of age I have a cardiologist. My cardiologist told me I’m one of his youngest patients.
With the recent revelation that Pfizer never even tested for transmission, I feel very angry. That was the whole point of the passports. The health authorities told us over and over that we had to get it to protect other people.