My name is Habib. I am a 36-year-old chartered accountant living in North-West Sydney, and prior to taking the COVID vaccine, I was healthy and happy, regularly working out.
Little did I know that just weeks after receiving the COVID vaccine I would be on a ventilator and life support, with total catastrophic heart and multiple organ failure, and scheduled to have a heart transplant.
As well as nearly dying from the vaccine, which the TGA has acknowledged, my quality of life, relationships, career and finances have been severely impacted. I lost my home, because I could no longer work to pay the mortgage. I have been compensated by the government, but the impacts from the injuries will be lifelong.
Despite nearly dying and spending months recovering, including learning to walk and talk again, I was refused exemption from further vaccines. I was required to take a second vaccine. As a Muslim, I didn’t smoke, drink alcohol or take any illegal or recreational drugs. I have never had any side effects to any medication in the past. I lived an extremely active lifestyle, and was involved in many sports, including martial arts, running, cricket, cycling and mountain biking, as well as gym fitness classes. I have completed several City to Surf running events.
I was also very passionate about my career in the accounting and finance field, holding sought-after roles within major companies in the professional, construction, and engineering sectors. I was hopeful to one day become a chief financial officer. That dream has died. Leading up the vaccine, I had contracted a mild case of COVID, but had fully recovered and resumed my fitness training with no issues.
Based on my GP’s advice, the government’s messaging at the time to get the vaccine to regain freedom, and my willingness to play my part in the pandemic response, I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday 24 September 2021 at Castle Towers Medical Practice. Side effects over the weekend were mild, however, early in the week I began to sense something wasn’t right. By Wednesday the 29th I had extremely high temperatures, headache, fatigue, dizziness, a rash on my stomach and an elevated heart rate. I was too ill to work. I presented to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Emergency Department and was placed on a drip. My inflammatory markers were extremely elevated. The treating doctor said they were the highest he’d ever seen, but I was subsequently told to go home and rest and was discharged that night.
The next morning I felt like a zombie, and was now suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhoea. By Friday, I felt like I was about to die. That day, my mother came to check on me and after seeing my condition, which included vomiting and chest pain, she took me straight to Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, where I was admitted and stayed over the weekend.
On Sunday 3 October, my mother noticed me slurring in our phone conversation, and I was unable to speak. After hanging up, she called the nurse to check up on me. I was found in cardiac arrest. I was subsequently transferred into the Intensive Care Unit with myocarditis and heart failure. I was briefed by a group of doctors, who told me my heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and gall bladder were all shutting down. This was absolutely terrifying. My immune system was apparently failing because of an extreme response to COVID antibodies. I already had the antibodies from having had COVID, and the subsequent vaccine then launched my immune system into overdrive. They explained it as similar to AIDS or hepatitis. As a consequence, my organs started to inflame and then fail. Because I had no working immune system, I started to develop pneumonia, which rapidly filled up my lungs with fluid, kicking off respiratory failure.
I was slipping in and out of consciousness. I had one drip per organ and a huge team of doctors surrounding me. I became so critical that later that Monday evening I was transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital ICU in Sydney for a higher level of care. Upon arrival at RNSH Hospital, I knew I was in serious trouble. A team of doctors told me, “We’re worried about your heart, your breathing, your liver, your kidneys, your gall bladder, the spreading rash, your pneumonia, and the immune reaction, but go to sleep tonight – you will be keeping all organs for now…”.
I could tell the team was unsure how to tackle all the complications, and that it was all new. I knew then that the risk was real, and that I could potentially die. It was all so surreal. My thoughts and focus shifted between periods of denial, strength to fight and the determination to be there for my child, to periods of doubt – “Is this really going to be it?”, “Will it be game over tomorrow?” – and extreme fear. Ultimately, I knew the vaccine had spread through my body in such a way that it was not going to come out. There is no way to reverse it. I questioned my decision to take it. As I deteriorated, I spent the brief waking moments saying prayers, pondering life, thinking about my parents and family, and wondering what my child would be like. I had to put my affairs in order, and I asked for my laptop so I could quickly send photos and passwords to my loved ones.
I didn’t get that far.
When I scroll back through my messages, there were many left unanswered. It’s scary.
On Wednesday 6 October I was informed I had deteriorated to the stage where I’d be placed on a ventilator due to respiratory failure. They were also worried about my heart condition, and if the ventilator or heart completely failed, I would be placed on life support (VA ECMO).
I had to consent.
I was advised I would shortly be put to sleep and there was a chance I would not wake up. And If I did wake up, I should be prepared to for outcomes such as being in a wheelchair for life, brain damaged or permanently disabled. I was told the nurse would get my phone to connect me to my loved ones. The fear when your life is about to end is the worst fear I’ve ever experienced. I have recollections of the scrambled thoughts, such as, “Do I call my wife or my mother or father to say goodbye?”, “How would I even word that goodbye?”, and “Should I just try to power through and tell them what I’ve been through after I wake up?”
I didn’t want them to worry, however, I was certain it was the end. Before I could figure out those questions to myself, the doctors walked in five minutes later and said, “We can’t wait – we need to proceed now”. I never ended up being able to call my family or send things from my laptop to my loved ones. The doctors said they’d call them. This was the essentially the moment in which I feared that my life was about to end. I was then put into an induced coma and intubated on a ventilator. My family were informed at 1pm.
About an hour following the ventilation, I went into severe heart failure. They started defibrillating me and pumping me with adrenaline, and worked for five hours to try to revive me. They basically fried my heart. At 6pm, my mother received a second call from doctors and was told that I’d deteriorated further, that and I was being placed on life support, and to get to the hospital as soon as possible to say goodbye. At that time, no visitors were allowed into hospitals, especially ICU, except for compassionate reasons such as end of life. My family were granted an exemption to visit on that basis.
When she arrived, there were about 25 doctors and nurses ready to put me on life support. They bowed and briefly gave her space, except for the one nurse who stood next to her to catch her, as mothers often faint in these situations. She had two minutes to say goodbye. One of my sisters had arrived, too. At that level of support, there is an almost 100% mortality rate, and it was likely the switch would be shut off in a day or two. They didn’t have time to move me to a theatre, so they operated on the floor of the ICU. I was receiving the maximum level of medication you can administer to a human being.
From the neck down, I was effectively dead. It was only neurological criteria standing in the way of death being declared. The level of medical support that was keeping me alive is rarely seen. My heart stopped beating and the doctors decided I needed a heart transplant. As I had reached the maximum level of care at Royal North Shore, I was transferred on the evening of Thursday 7 October to St Vincent’s Hospital in preparation for the transplant. It took a specialist team of 12 doctors to transfer me over four hours overnight to pack up all my equipment and get me there. Upon arrival, my heart’s ejection fraction (EF) was just 10% and my measure on the Glasgow Coma scale was 3 – the lowest possible score before death.
Over the next few days, none of the medications trialled on me worked. The doctors were constantly talking to doctors in the United States, who suggested new medicines, but my body kept rejecting them. It was like the vaccine had blocked other medications from working. I periodically had my sedation reduced to confirm that I still had brain activity. Otherwise, they would have switched me off. This was very confusing, as when I would wake up, I’d wonder if I was dead. But I would nod and give the thumbs up. The nurses would Facetime my family during these awake periods, and my family would tell me that everyone was praying for me and not to give up.
In the meantime, my mother signed the consent forms, and preparations began for the transplant. After a week, life support becomes exponentially dangerous, so the doctors had to make a call on whether to try reviving my heart or progress with the transplant. Miraculously, they found some weak signals, and because I was relatively young, healthy and fit, they made the call to keep and revive my existing heart. A surgeon told me that two other people injured by the COVID vaccine had been given heart transplants at St Vincent’s, and though I was the worst, both of the others had passed away.
On Tuesday 12 October I was weaned off life support, and two days later, I was extubated from the ventilator. The removal of the ventilation tube down my throat was an extremely painful experience. My entire throat, neck and chest area burned as my body took over breathing itself. I still remember the doctors telling me, “Follow our instructions, just breathe, don’t try to move or speak”. Afterwards, I had to keep the suction tube with me for a few days, because I kept feeling like I was going to drown in discharge fluids. After being extubated, I could not eat or talk due to damage from the tubes and muscle loss in my face and throat. I could not feel my limbs. The speech pathologist had to hold my neck whilst trying to feed me small quantities. It’s very traumatising to realise you cannot eat or drink.
I had immense cravings for water to quench my thirst, but I wasn’t allowed to drink. I lost my ability to speak and didn’t know if I would speak again. I was whispering for about six weeks until my vocal cords recovered. Whilst being weaned off the ventilator, (it takes about four hours), I watched as the young girl across from me died. The staff at the hospital said prayers for her. ICUs are not nice places. I have so much respect for critical care staff.
I eventually made it out of ICU and spent a few days in the heart and respiratory ward. The doctors and nurses continued to do their magic. I witnessed how staff shortages impact seriously ill patients. Family members of other patients used to look after me and others, just to allow the nurses to grab a quick sandwich. I don’t get why the state government won’t re-employ unvaccinated nurses, or meet their pay and workplace demands.
I was transferred to the rehabilitation ward on 19 October after extensive rehabilitation, including speech pathology, dietitians, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychology/social workers, and various doctor consultations, including cardiologists, immunologists/infectious diseases, neurologists, lung specialists, and rehabilitation.
I was discharged from St Vincent’s on 28 October 2021 to continue my rehabilitation from home. After the discharge, my focus was full time on recovery and rehabilitation. I’ve made over 100 visits to hospital for outpatient treatment. There have been constant challenges and hurdles. Everything from mental impacts, such as significant memory loss, severe headaches, disturbed sleep, ongoing heart rate issues and chest pain, to breathing difficulties and intense fatigue. The doctors and nurses were excellent, and given the circumstances, they did everything they could and managed the situation extremely well.
We are lucky to live in Australia where our health system is second to none. Despite still suffering from complications, I wanted to be present for the birth of my first child, so I had to have the second COVID vaccine. I also ended up with limited immunity due to extensive immunosuppression to stop the reaction. It was referred to the NSW Immunology Board, which determined it was safe for me to have either Novavax or AstraZeneca. I eventually took it, thankfully with no apparent complications.
In terms of the pain and suffering, I could write an entire book. Physically, the medical journey that I endured is the worst possible thing that can happen to a human body. No vital organ was left untouched. My brain suffered from lack of blood flow and oxygen whilst on life support, and so required extensive brain training to get it working again.
Thankfully, there was no brain damage discovered, but I’m not as quick or have the photographic memory I once had. My heart was left swollen from the myocarditis and it took extensive cardiac rehabilitation to regain full function and efficiency. I have stitches everywhere, including about six inches of stitches where massive tubes were inserted to pump oxygenated blood through my body.
Recently I went for an MRI, and the doctors were shocked to see no scar tissue on my heart or lungs. My lungs recovered well too. I’m just on a puffer. It took extensive physiotherapy to regain all my muscles. My voice took a while to return, but luckily, it’s back too. The other organs gradually returned to normal levels as well. I had to have various immunisations again. The dietitians assisted me to regain the 14 kilograms I had lost. I managed to avoid the most serious outcomes.
Mentally, it’s an ordeal I wish nobody else ever goes through. It’s a tough process to accept that at such a young age, you will no longer be the same person physically and mentally as you were before. I have worked with various medical professionals and a clinical psychologist to manage my post-traumatic stress, anxiety, insomnia, sleep patterns, and feelings. If I didn’t give attention to my mental health, it would have been a different outcome. As well as the loving support of my family and friends, my faith and prayers have helped me get through this.
It’s given me a sense of healing. I am extremely lucky to be alive, and my recovery has been even more miraculous. I believe it was the prayers that made the difference. I have an abnormal level of determination and resilience, and that has helped too, as well as now having my daughter to live for.
I’ve been told by almost every doctor that I was the worst vaccine injury case they had ever seen. But through all of this, I have been determined to get well. I’m now back to 75% normal after nine months of intense rehab. I even ran the most recent City to Surf running event in one hour and forty-one minutes, which is twenty minutes slower than my previous time.
Time will tell how I fare in the long term and whether there will be issues later on. I continue to strive to get my health back to where it was prior to the COVID vaccine. I have returned to work gradually, working up to three days a week, but have had to change my expectations of succeeding in the career I trained and worked in for 15 years. It will need to follow a different trajectory now. No more high-pressure roles, in which I previously thrived. There is too much risk in getting overwhelmed and going backwards.
From all of this, I’ve learned many things, including the importance of family and friends. This includes reconnecting with loved ones and mending any past issues. When I was about to die, I thought about moments of meaning and connection, rather than my material possessions, which I sometimes cared too much for.
I’ve realised the benefits of looking after my health holistically, including physically, mentality and spiritually. Giving back and contributing to a purpose or cause has also become important to me. This is an area that I previously hadn’t given too much time to. I also urge everyone to support organ and blood donation.
I’ve gained an appreciation of how fragile life is and that any moment could be your last. I’ve often heard that comment, but now I understand the truth to it. The accountant in me would also like to remind you to build up some savings for a rainy day, get your insurances such as income protection, sorted, and consider a will.
There hasn’t been enough testing and understanding of the adverse consequences of the vaccine. It was rushed through, and my suffering is the result of that. One of my cardiologists said the vaccine should never have been rolled out, as it was far too quick. The nurses were sighing and saying “not again” when caring for me. It seems as if medical professionals are unable to speak openly about their observations.
Some of the ICU doctors wouldn’t admit my state was due to the vaccine. It took my medically trained sister having a go at them to get them to finally drop the stonewalling and dodging blaming the vaccine. They kept considering other possibilities until they had to be bluntly told, “What else could it have been apart from the vaccine? Nothing at all changed with Habib”.
I believe the continued use of COVID vaccines is totally unnecessary. I have friends who acquired COVID a month after the vaccine. The risk-versus-reward trade-off is not worth it unless you’re medically compromised. You are barely protected by the Vaccine Claims Scheme anyway. I applied for compensation through the scheme and received a payout. I didn’t have to sign a non-disclosure. I believe the Vaccine Claims Scheme isn’t fit for purpose and is an embarrassment to Australia.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Mary Ward on 19 November 2022 stated, “Seventy-five claims totalling $3.8 million have been paid under the scheme. The maximum payout is $70,680, paid to estates of the deceased”. On average, that equates to $50,667 per injury, and even less if adjusted for the tiny amount grieving and devastated families receive for the death of their family members. This is completely unacceptable and unethical. The overheads of the scheme itself would be many times more than that.
The scheme was intended to encourage COVID vaccines by offering “quick access to compensation” for “…side effects or adverse events”. It has completely failed in its primary purpose. You need to jump through complex hurdles, making it inaccessible to a lot of genuine claimants. This is why out of the 10,000 who registered, only 75 have been paid. Within the fine print, the scheme only covers direct impacts, not secondary impacts, for a limited number of conditions. Furthermore, you need to be appropriately qualified and experienced to navigate through the extensive medical evidence and documentation requirements. The scheme also prevents the use of legal assistance. It was not “quick” either – my application took months to work its way through various reviews and panels. It took multiple escalations, including e-mails to the then Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, as well as then Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to finally get some traction. After all the jumping through hoops, you’re left with no choice but to accept to meet your rehabilitation, medical or other obligations. A class action or a direct claim against the vaccine providers would have paid out that entire $3.8m combined amount per claim. The government has effectively handed the pharmaceutical companies a get-out-of-jail-free card by placing themselves in between patients and firms, removing any accountability and indemnifying the vaccine manufacturers of any fault or claims, saving them millions.
After shielding the vaccine providers, the government has then gone on to pay out tiny compensation amounts under the scheme, which is falsely advising the public that we’re protected, whilst also paying vaccine providers large amounts for the vaccine purchases. Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and others would be laughing all the way to their respective banks.
A friend was recently hospitalised for a serious blood clot he developed after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine, but he did not bother with an application given the extensive obligations to provide medical support. The criteria are far too restrictive.