I am a fit and active, single 67 year old woman who, having traveled extensively, has had many different vaccines in the past without incident. I exercise regularly (swim, gym, walk), eat healthily, and I’m of optimal weight for my age.
My health prior to vaccine was good. On the morning of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination (3 May 2021), I had attended my usual gym training 9-10am with my personal trainer. I received my first Covid vaccine injection less than an hour later. (Batch: ER7449-024, date: 3/5/21, time: 10:49am). I had an immediate adverse reaction and experienced months of distressing symptoms, several of which are with me still and for which I’m still seeing doctors.
Symptoms following vaccination:
- Tremors, terrible brain-fog, facial numbness, cranial pressure, heart and lung pain, insomnia, tinnitus, ‘fizzing’ legs (paresthesia), peripheral neuropathy (burning feet).
- Tremors: 15 minutes after receiving 1st Covid vaccine injection, I developed a deep, all-over body tremor. I didn’t report it to staff at the time, as it wasn’t anaphylaxis, and I had had a similar tremor response to salbutamol for a lung function test some 5 months prior. The tremor took hours to resolve after the lung function test, but it did eventually subside, so I assumed the tremors after the vaccine would also be transitory. They didn’t.
- Brain-fog: I felt spacey/dopey immediately, and the tremor and brain-fog never dissipated, in fact, it got worse as the days went on. The ‘brain-fog’ was terrible. I struggled with short-term memory - doing dumb things, forgetting things, easily distracted - and sometimes felt ‘confused’, struggle with the sequence of simple things. There were events during that period of which I have no memory.
- Numbness: Within a few days I developed numbness on my palate, and felt tightness through my neck and numbness through the left side of my face. Even a month on, there were days I had so much pressure in my head, I wasn’t sure I would make it through the night, which prompted me to even ring my ex-partner and telling him I would text in the morning - if I made it through the night. I thought I might have a stroke. I knew there was no point in going to hospital, I’d already been dismissed by medical experts by then.
- Insomnia: Because the tremors were greatly exacerbated in a reclining position, it made ‘relaxing’ or getting to sleep very difficult. I had to lock my right arm between my legs in order to reduce the shaking. At times I was lucky to get 1 hour of sleep, and when I did finally manage to sleep, I had terrible insomnia and weird, vivid dreams.
- Paresthesia and Neuropathy: When I got into bed it felt like my legs and feet were ‘fizzing’, a paresthesia which felt like carbonated water running up and down my legs. The sensation of the undulating ‘fizzing’ kept me awake. Within a month or two this sensation was accompanied by burning feet.
- Heart/Lung pain:The first two weeks after the vaccine I had increased arrhythmia and some some sharp ‘heart pains’ when going to bed, but they didn’t last long. However, on the evening of 12 May I had a sudden onset of severe pain in my right lung causing shortness of breath, and which felt like pleurisy. It hurt to breathe.
- Tinnitus: There was a constant high-pitched tinnitus frequency sound in both ears. I also experienced a loud buzzing in one or another ear which would come and go. It was worse initially. For months I felt an occasional sensation, as if something was crawling inside my right ear canal.
My efforts to get help from medical professionals - including 9 doctors in all, 5 of whom are specialists:
- Healthline: Several days after the vaccine, the tremors and brain-fog prompted me to contact Healthline. They offered no solution, other than to get the next vaccine. Healthline offered a ‘nurse’s phone back’ for the next day. I waited 7hrs, but the call never eventuated. I rang back the following day and they said they’d tried to ring but it was ‘engaged’. (*note: a subsequent investigation through the Health and Disables Commission proved they could find no record of them trying to ring, and agreed that the advice I’d received from them was distressing.)
- CARM: I reported my reaction to CARM, the Ministry of Health NZ Covid Reaction website on 7 May 2021 - four days after the Covid vaccination. I also made a VAERS report with the CDC and reported to Pfizer.
- GP: I saw my very nice GP Dr Maria Hulleman from Nelson City Medical Centre on 10 May 2021 to discuss my symptoms. She also made a report to CARM that day and gave me some medication to cope with the tremors and insomnia. But with little relief, and unable to discern if I was experiencing ‘brain-fog’ due to the vaccine or the medication, I stopped all medication on 3 June. The brain-fog did not lessen.
- Hospital: After the onset of the severe, pleurisy-like pain pain in my right lung on the night of 12 May, I decided I would take myself to hospital if it was still there in the morning. It was, so concerned that I might be having a pulmonary embolism, I drove to hospital the next day. I know this sounds stupid, but when I got there I could not find a parking spot in any of the parking areas. I was so frustrated after driving around and around that I decided that if I was going to die of something, I’d rather do it at home than circling the parking lots. I should have called an ambulance. It took about 4 days for the pain to resolve. With more information out about the vaccine, I now recognise that the symptoms of heart pain and lung pain can be signs of pericarditis. Had that information been available to me at the time, I would have made sure I was seen at A&E.
- After-hours Doctor: On 15th May, the neurological effects were so distressing that I took myself back to the after-hours Dr at the clinic located next to the Hospital. I saw a lovely young doctor. I detailed my symptoms to her, being mostly concerned that I had some sort of brain damage. I also told her about the heart and lung pain, which I said had dissipated somewhat, but it didn’t seem to ring any alarm bells for her. In fact, of all the doctors I saw or spoke to and described those symptoms, no one picked up that it could be indicative of pericarditis. She sent a message to my GP recommending a referral to a neurologist, but I left with no other treatment or investigation.
- Neurologist: I was then referred to a local neurologist. I was examined by her on 1 June 2021. Because my brain-fog was so bad, I’d written a list of my symptoms, which in all fairness, were fairly numerous. During my visit, the doctor would not allow me to read from my list. I was in tears, explaining that I couldn’t remember anything, I need to read my list. I could barely hold together two thoughts in a row! Nevertheless, she refused to let me read my list to her and to fully explain my symptoms. She suggested that I was having silent migraines, which seemed ridiculous to me. I had migraines as a teenager and I was experiencing no migraine symptoms whatsoever. After telling me another story about when she was ‘right’ (about another patient’s diagnosis), she assured me that she was ‘right’ about this diagnosis. I refused the offered prescription migraine medication because of their side-effects, but agreed to take the magnesium tablets she suggested. This encounter was very distressing and I felt it was not only a combative atmosphere, but that I’d been totally dismissed. I would never go see her again. She did order an MRI.
- Opinion: I had the MRI (15 June) some 6 weeks after the onset of my symptoms which showed nothing new. On 6/08/22 I saw my Respiratory Specialist, who suggested that my symptoms could have been an indication of encephalitis, but that by the time I had the MRI, it may not have shown anything. He also recommended that I do not get a second vaccine.
- Referral: As I was still alarmed about the brain-fog and other lingering symptoms more than a month on, and because my regular GP was unavailable, I asked my GP (on 10 June 2021) to refer me to someone who might know about adverse reactions. I wanted to know if it was something in the vaccine I was allergic to, or was I having some sort of autoimmune reaction?
- Immunologist: He referred me to an immunologist, infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist. I was most hopeful that he would be able to look into my reaction. About a week or two later, the doctor rang me, saying we could have a 10 minute phone chat at no cost and that I didn’t have to come in. He told me he thought it was Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), saying it was common among young women, connected to chronic disease, and well documented. He then ask if I was often tired, had chronic pain or digestion issues, to all of which I answered ‘no’. I found it strange that, having been referred to him, he was unwilling to actually seeing me. I did not ask for him to ring or ask for ‘free time’. He was not doing me a favour. I would have been happy to pay to see him. I have insurance and I wanted his particular expertise.
- He told me nothing about what Functional Neurological Disorder was or the treatment and ended the conversation rudely when I asked him a question and he said, “Michele, time’s up.” I was left to google search FND myself. Given what I read from FND websites and firsthand testimony from sufferers of FND, there were a few symptoms that I felt applied, but a lot of symptoms that just didn’t. The doctor did recommend I don’t receive another Pfizer vaccine. (*note: I registered a complaint about the poor treatment I’d received from this doctor through HDC, and in his reply of /5/4/22, he wrote, he was confident in his diagnosis as he had “…seen a dozen or more patients in the last 9 months who have had functional symptoms reactions to the Covid vaccine, and some of them are similar to Michele.”
- Audiologist: I further contacted CARM, to say that I was still experiencing tinnitus months after the injection. I felt it was important for them to know that some symptoms were lingering. The suggestion was made that it might be because of an underlying condition, so I had a thorough hearing test on 29 Sept 2021 at Triton Hearing, with normal results. Unfortunately, when the report was written, the report said the tinnitus was ‘non-bothersome’. This is not the terminology that I used to describe it to her. I said it was ‘annoying’, but that I could manage it with white noise, etc… Nevertheless, she heard it differently.
Outcome and ongoing symptoms to date:
- The tremors dissipated after 2 or 3 months and are back to the ‘base-line’ essential tremor prior to the vaccine. The brain-fog, which was the most debilitating and distressing symptom lasted at least 7 weeks, has resolved, but I do experience occasional ‘fuzzy days’. I don’t know if there is any correlation to the vaccine or not. The facial numbness resolved when the brain-fog did. My sleep is sometimes better.
- I still have a constant high-pitched tinnitus. I use a noise app to sleep.
- I still have ‘fizzing’ legs (paresthesia), and peripheral neuropathy (burning feet), particularly at night, which makes my legs ache and causes insomnia. Some days are better than others. I have numbness and have lost some sensation in my feet/toes. I have recently been diagnosed by a neurologist in Wellington with length dependant axonal sensory neuropathy by way of nerve conductivity testing.