My name is Michelle and I’m 42-years-old. I’m a Canine Behavioural Specialist by trade. Before the Covid jab, I was relatively active, walked my dog daily, and was in good general health. I didn’t want the jab as I didn’t feel it was safe enough for me and there’s a strong line of heart-related issues in my family. When I queried my GP as to its safety, she cut me off numerous times and said, “Just get it.” I wasn’t even able to get the words out to ask my questions. I felt she was very dismissive.
I was able to ignore the unspoken social pressure from family, friends, and the media. At the time, however, vets weren’t allowing un-jabbed owners to accompany their pets inside clinics. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice not going in with my 17-year-old blind dog, so I went ahead and got the Covid jab.
I had come to accept this needed to be done and made as much peace as I could with my decision. On the 21st of October, 2021, I had my first Pfizer jab. Within five minutes, my heart started racing and I felt like I was about to vomit. One of the nurses called out to see if I was okay and another started walking towards me. As I stood up to meet her, I collapsed.
I remember the nurses helping me onto a chair and giving me an oxygen mask. One of the nurses tried to tell me I was experiencing anxiety, but I told her I knew it was not anxiety. They kept me for a further 30 minutes’ observation. During this time, the heart racing and the feeling I needed to vomit didn’t subside, so I got up and drove myself home. Once home, I vomited violently several times and felt very weak afterwards. Thankfully, my mum was there to support me.
Over the next three weeks, I experienced intermittent sharp pains in my chest and down my arms and shortness of breath. The symptoms were mild and not significant enough for me to take myself to the doctor or hospital as I tend to tough things out.
On the 11th of November at 11am, I had my second Pfizer jab. I told the nurse I had immediate symptoms after my first jab and asked if it was safe for me to have another. She told me because I hadn’t been hospitalised, I needed to have the second jab but said they’d put me on a stretcher, monitor my blood pressure, and keep me a bit longer under observation. I had no immediate reactions this time.
Over the course of the day, I noticed a bit of tightness in my chest. By night time, I was in more pain and felt like I had a vice wrapped around my chest. I woke up at 4am feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. My body was in agony, and my heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest. My heart was racing and my whole body was shaking. Now it felt like the vice was wrapped entirely around my chest and back, making it hard to take a full breath. It felt as if something was sitting on me so I couldn’t breathe properly.
As the morning continued, I got sharp pains in my chest and down both my arms. By late morning, my symptoms were getting worse, so I called an ambulance. Inside the ambulance, they did an ECG and I explained I’d had the Pfizer jab the day before and detailed my symptoms. They gave me morphine intravenously, which relieved some of my pain. The paramedics said the ECG indicated suspected pericarditis and took me straight to hospital.
In emergency, they did another ECG, a blood test, took a chest X-ray, and put me on a monitor. The doctor said they’d ruled out a heart attack and that I had pericarditis. She told me to go home, take Nurofen, and rest.
As she started to walk out, I called her back to ask about what to expect, the recommended treatment, and how long my symptoms might last. She appeared rushed and abrupt, and I had to probe for information. She told me I should be okay in a few weeks and to follow up with my GP. She then said, “We just need to get you out of here.” The whole experience felt rushed and dismissive.
Once home and the morphine had worn off, I was again in excruciating pain. I was unable to talk and breathe at the same time without gasping for air every few words. Talking exhausted me very quickly. I live on my own and not being able to communicate properly with others meant those first eight weeks were the most alone I’d felt in my entire life.
I was too weak to stand for more than a minute before I felt like my body was about to give way. I couldn’t walk to my front door let alone go outside for a walk. Everyday things I didn’t think twice about previously, such as a queue at the supermarket, would overwhelm me because I didn’t know if my body would hold up standing in line for that long.
Three days after the first hospitalisation, I had my follow-up with my GP. As I waited in line, I felt my body unable to stand and I collapsed to the floor. Due to Covid, the waiting-room chairs were cordoned off, so thankfully another patient brought a chair over to me and helped me up. When the staff finally attended to me, they tried to say I collapsed due to anxiety. I knew it wasn’t anxiety and that it was pericarditis, but I struggled to speak as I was gasping for air every few words. I had to repeat myself a few times before they acknowledged what I was telling them. They then put me in a wheelchair and took me upstairs for another ECG. The doctor came in with my hospital ECG readings and said the ECG they just did showed the pericarditis was much worse and called for an ambulance to take me to hospital.
I was given Fentanyl in the ambulance for pain relief so I was in less pain by the time we arrived. The doctor acknowledged my symptoms and took them more seriously than my first visit, and the staff were much more helpful. After another ECG, blood work, and monitoring, they ruled out a heart attack. The doctor confirmed pericarditis and said it was worse than a few days ago. She prescribed colchicine and told me to rest and continue taking my Nurofen. She was happy to answer my questions and was much more caring in her manner.
She told me to see my GP in a few days for a referral to a cardiologist and to have an Echocardiogram.
I have ongoing sharp, stabbing pain through my chest, neck, collar bone, back, and down my arms. I get a tight pressure squeezing me around my chest and back that’s sharp and aches. Pain relief dulls the pain but it never completely goes away, leaving me in pain every single day. While my heart rate has reduced now, I used to wake to a 160bpm heart rate, and it’d race just sitting on the couch. Feeling weak and shaky was constant, and now it comes in waves.
In addition to my physical pain, I was unable to clearly articulate my thoughts, my decision-making skills became non-existent, and I couldn’t verbally communicate as I did prior to the Covid jab. I now tire very quickly, my thinking is scattered, and I have brain fog. These cognitive symptoms were the worst in the first 10 months following the jab, but I still experience them to this day, though less severely.
When I went back to see my GP with my hospital report to get a referral to a cardiologist, she told me I should be fine in a week and I didn’t need to see a specialist. At this stage, I was still gasping for air every few words as breathing was painful. I said to her, “How much worse do I have to get for you to take me seriously?” I was in shock that she would not write me a referral for a cardiologist, and only referred me for an Echocardiogram. There was also no acknowledgement that my symptoms were as a result of the Pfizer jab.
I went to see another GP who took one look at my previous ECGs and hospital reports and immediately phoned a cardiologist, getting me an appointment within two days. They both gave full acknowledgement my symptoms were from the Pfizer jab.
I’ve been working with my new GP and cardiologist for the past 13 months and had numerous ECGs, MRIs, CT scans, and Echocardiograms. We’ve tried all the standard therapies for pericarditis. There was gradual improvement in the first three months, but, unfortunately, minimal improvement since. Ultimately, my body isn’t responding to the treatment.
Now, my cardiologist doesn’t know what to do and has referred me to the Heart Failure Specialist at the Alfred Hospital. They also don’t know how to best treat my symptoms, saying I still have pericarditis, but they believe I might have something else going on. At the Alfred Hospital, they noted there’s nowhere on their reporting system to record that my symptoms have been caused by the Pfizer jab
As they don’t know what else they can do for me, they have referred me to the Chronic Pain Clinic where they’ll do further tests to see how best to support me in living with the pain. They recommended I do the Cardiac Rehab Program to see how safe it is for me to become more active as they’re concerned more activity could cause a cardiac arrest.
My life looks very different now to how it did pre-jab, and it is only a shadow of what it used to be. My next step is to focus on healing and finding a way to live with the pain whilst also regaining my quality of life. I won’t give up. Some of the doctors are well meaning but they don’t have answers, which leaves me facing more of the unknown. I’ll keep searching for answers and while I have learnt to smile through the pain and adapt to living life in a different way, the enormity of how much my life has changed still sits heavily with me every single day.