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Michele Surcouf

What was your life like before you received the COVID-19 vaccine?

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, eat healthily, I’m of optimal weight, but I do have a few pre-existing health issues. I have a benign essential tremor in my neck and a resting tremor in my right forearm. Neither has been bad enough to disrupt my activities or require medication. I also have occasional arrhythmia and an underlying lung issue. 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, who has been my personal trainer for years and knows me quite well. He, also has a P.G. Dip Sci (Psychology), B. App. Sci (Psychology), Dip Child & Adolescent Psychology, Dip Tch (PE & Health), Cert Personal Training, and is a Holistic Lifestyle Coach. I’m sure he could attest to the fact that less than one hour before my vaccination, I had none of these complaints, that I was fit, happy, and healthy, and had no hesitation about receiving the vaccination. I felt confident that I was doing, not only the right thing for myself, but also doing my part as a member of the ‘team of 5 million’ here in New Zealand.

Describe the symptoms and the timeline of the reaction.

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. I told the attendant I was ‘OK’ when told my wait time of 20 minutes was up. 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.

I felt spacey/dopey immediately, which I attributed to a normal vaccine response, as well as a dull headache on day one. However, the tremor and brain-fog never dissipated, in fact, it got worse as the days went on. The ‘brain-fog’ felt like I’d spent the night on a train - like my head has been jostled back and forth. The feeling was as if I had prescription glasses on that weren’t quite the right prescription.

I felt my speech became somewhat forced/slurred, particularly the first few weeks. 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 that I have no memory of (eg. going out to dinner with a friend). To totally forget that I had gone out to dinner was somewhat alarming!

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. These symptoms were reminiscent of some sort of an anxiety response, but I didn’t feel there was a psychological reason for feeling that way. Even a month on, there were a few 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 knew there was no point in going to hospital, as I’d already been dismissed by medical experts.

Within a day of the vaccine there was a noticeable increase in the tremor in my neck/head, a significant increase in the resting tremor in my right forearm, and the ‘new’ tremor in my core which felt like a loss spinal cord stability, which manifested in what felt like a wobbly oscillation of my core. This core tremor was intermittent.

The tremors were greatly exacerbated in a reclining or supine position, making ‘relaxing’ or getting to sleep very difficult. I had to lock my right arm between my legs in order to reduce the shaking. I had terrible insomnia and weird, vivid dreams when I did finally manage to sleep.

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 ‘fizzing’ also kept me awake. Within a month or two this sensation was accompanied by burning feet which still continue today. I now know this is peripheral neuropathy.

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 an onset of severe pain in my right lung causing shortness of breath, and which felt like pleurisy.

I also experienced a loud buzzing in ears which would come and go - worse initially. I still have constants high-pitched tinnitus to this day. For months I felt an occasional sensation, as if something was crawling inside my right ear canal. I still have tinnitus.

Weirdly, even though I was not sleeping much at all, I was not tired. Small blessings...

It took seven weeks before the worst of the brain-fog dissipated. I still have times where I feel 'fuzzy', but I can't necessarily contribute that to the vaccine. It also took that amount of time before the worst of the tremors subsided - back to my base-line essential tremor. But as I said, over a year on and I still have neuropathy in my feet and tinnitus.

Describe the solutions that helped your symptoms

I take a lot of supplements anyway, so it is hard to know if any of them were helpful or not. It may have just been 'time' that helped the most. I have been taking B1 & B6 specifically to help with the neuropathy. It has gotten a bit better since almost a year ago, but can still flairs up badly (with occasional aching legs and insomnia). I use white noise at night to try to counter the high-pitched tinnitus and I continue to try to be as healthy as possible - eat well, exercise regularly, stay positive.

Which solutions were not helpful?

Most doctors and specialists I saw were unhelpful. I saw 4 MDs and 3 specialists. Had blood tests, MRI, exams, etc... I was 'diagnosed' with 'silent migraines' by the neurologist and 'FND' by the immunologist over the phone - he refuse to see me, even though I had been referred to him by a GP. My general practitioner has been great, but has struggled to understand the issue, nor has she been able to do much about it but ponder.

What would you like others to know?

There needs to be recognition and support - at the highest level of the health system - for those of us who have suffered vaccine injury. Currently we are stigmatised and ignored. I have found it near impossible to find anyone in New Zealand that can give me answers.
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The individual experience shared above is offered for informational purposes only. React19 neither endorses nor recommends any treatment(s) noted therein. React19 does not diagnose medical conditions, offer treatment advice, treat illnesses, or prescribe medicine or drugs. It is strongly recommended that, prior to acting upon any information gleaned from a shared experience, you first consult a physician.