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Julie Gamble had a fulfilling life: a stable career, the freedom to travel, and three children and one grandbaby to cherish.
But that life was disrupted in the spring and summer of 2021 when Gamble developed severe adverse reactions after getting the two-shot COVID-19 vaccine primary series — which resulted in her losing her job.
Gamble, now 53, spoke to The Defender about the vaccine injuries she sustained, the symptoms and challenges she is still experiencing, the ongoing difficulties finding doctors willing to treat her and classify her symptoms as vaccine-related, and the supportive role online groups for vaccine-injured individuals have had in her life.
The Defender reviewed documentation and photographic evidence verifying Gamble’s claims prior to publishing her story.
‘I felt really, really tired … anesthetic tired’
Gamble, who lives in Ontario, Canada, received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on May 17, 2021. For the second dose, she received the Moderna vaccine on July 18, 2021.
Her symptoms appeared almost immediately after the first dose, she said:
“I came home and I was really, really tired. It felt like an anesthetic tired, it didn’t feel like a ‘regular’ tired.
“I had developed a rash all over my body. I was itchy and my eyelids swelled up. I recall the bottoms of my feet being extremely itchy, more so than anywhere else, and I was sweating profusely. I started getting Charley horses in my calves. So, of course I was drinking a lot of water. I recall losing my vision in my right eye.”
Variations of the symptoms lasted for about a week after her first dose. She called a pharmacist who told her to take an antihistamine and, “if my tongue started to swell up, go to the ER.”
Soon afterward, Gamble developed other symptoms, including weakness in her ankles and a fluctuating heart rate.
“I also recall I was wearing my Fitbit. I’d walk into work, and I’d check my heart rate and sometimes it was at 140 and then it would drop down to regular, about 70 beats per minute. I’d be sitting down and I felt a little odd and I’d look at my Fitbit and my heart rate would shoot right up and then it would come right back down. And I stopped wearing it because I assumed my Fitbit was broken.”
The leg cramps kept getting worse, but Gamble attributed them to dehydration because where she worked “was quite hot, and so that’s what I thought was happening.”
‘I felt guilted’ into getting second dose
Gamble said her reactions to the Pfizer shot made her “leery” of getting a second dose — even her pharmacist recommended against it, she said.
“I spoke to the pharmacist about it, and I told him what had happened to me and about my muscles cramping up,” Gamble said. Her pharmacist recommended she see an immunologist before he would administer the second shot.
However, the doctor Gamble saw was far less sympathetic, she said:
“I didn’t have a family doctor, so I went down to the hospital thinking the receptionist or somebody would just book me an appointment with an immunologist.
“Instead, they put me in a waiting room. I saw a doctor and he told me right from the get-go he was not going to give me an exemption, he wasn’t going to give me an appointment with an immunologist. He told me to take an antihistamine and I would be fine.”
A combination of “nudging” from her doctor and Canada’s strict COVID-19-related restrictions led Gamble to go ahead with the second dose — especially after her doctor lectured her about “being a good citizen and not killing people,” she said.
“So, I felt guilted into it, and I knew I couldn’t leave Canada unless I was fully vaccinated.”
Gamble’s pharmacist was uncomfortable administering the second dose but proceeded on the doctor’s recommendation. Though Gamble didn’t develop a rash this time, she did experience fatigue and blurry vision again.
“I felt like, okay, I’m going to sleep this off. And once again, after about three days I started to feel a little bit better. But then I started dropping things all over the place. At first, I just kind of thought it was weird.
“But then I noticed my sense of perception was off. I’d go to open a door and where I thought the door was, my hand would be two inches away from the door. I started having brain zaps. I still tried to work, and so I was at work, and I tried to write a report and I could barely hold my pen. My hands were cramping up.”
Gamble also noticed slurred speech and changes in her ability to swallow food. “At that point, I decided obviously I can’t go to work. And I noticed muscles were starting to atrophy between my pinky finger and my ring finger.”
A neurologist at her local hospital, the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, “looked at my hands and said, ‘There’s something going on here.’” He admitted her for the night.
However, in the morning, another doctor dismissed her concerns, telling her she was ‘bending my arms too much.” She then made an appointment with a doctor she had seen during a previous adverse reaction to medication. But by that point, her condition had deteriorated further.
“I was losing the muscles rapidly,” Gamble said. “Within two months, I went from having normal-looking hands to completely skeleton-looking hands. The muscles in my arms started to atrophy, [and] in my feet behind my kneecaps. I could really feel it. My balance was off. My blood pressure was low.”
Trying to get a diagnosis ‘has been hell’
During one of several hospital visits, Gamble said doctors were particularly dishonest to her.
“One of the doctors said to me that some people are getting Guillain-Barré syndrome and he was going to check me for that. So, he gave me blood work.” But Gamble later learned that’s not even the right test for Guillain-Barré.
“They have to do it with a spinal tap,” she said. “I kind of feel like every doctor I saw had a reason to try to make up something different other than it was the vaccine.”
Gamble is still having trouble finding a doctor willing and able to treat her — and medication that will be effective and not cause further adverse reactions.
Meanwhile, she is dealing with multiple health-related challenges. “Just trying to get to the bottom of what is going on has been hell,” she said.
She has since found a family doctor who prescribed prednisone, but Gamble said she had a “horrible” reaction to it. “My hands turned blue, my tongue turned blue, I was getting brain zaps. I was passing out and my husband took me to the hospital.”
Doctors then told Gamble she had Raynaud’s disease, but “I don’t have that because [the symptoms were] on both sides of my hands and on my tongue,” she said.
“They sent me home like that. I tried to get help at one point, and I couldn’t get help. My husband, I guess I got a message out to him, but it was all gibberish. He came home thinking I’d had a stroke. He took me to the hospital; they did a CT scan, and everything came back normal. Apparently, my blood work comes back normal.”
Canada’s healthcare system, in conjunction with the country’s COVID-19-related restrictions, has made it challenging to even get treatment, Gamble said.
“I’m just trying to figure out what happened and am trying to get medical care,” Gamble said, “but I’m just hitting roadblocks everywhere. I figured maybe I could start physiotherapy, but in Canada you have to be 16 and under, or 65 and over, in order to qualify for free physiotherapy.”
Gamble said the pressure on doctors to look the other way when it comes to potential vaccine injury cases, and “a whole lot of doctor drama,” has been “frustrating.”
A neuromuscular doctor who previously worked at the London Health Sciences Centre confided in Gamble that she “got in trouble” with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for writing COVID-19 vaccination exemptions. “And so, her hands are tied, pretty much,” Gamble said.
Meanwhile, Gamble’s symptoms continue to evolve, and doctors continue to reject the possibility that the vaccines are to blame. Recently, her tongue started “turning white and swelling up” and her ears became “really itchy and scabby.”
“My doctor thought this must be an allergy, so I went and I saw an immunologist,” she said. “But as soon as I showed him my hands and said, ‘vaccine,’ he told me he wasn’t interested in that. He was only interested in things that put you in instant anaphylactic shock.”
Gamble asked for a second appointment, during which it was noted that her heart rate had dropped to between 44 and 52 beats per minute. Doctors suggested she was experiencing a reaction to the prednisone.
Gamble asked to be tested for an allergy to polyethylene glycol, or PEG, because it’s unusual to have a reaction to prednisone, she said.
However, the response she got from her doctor was similar to the “gaslighting” reported by others who experienced vaccine injuries.
“The second doctor tested me and I said to him, since I’ve had this vaccine, I’m not doing well with certain foods or medications,” said Gamble. “And I talked to him about the muscle wasting, and he looked at my hands and he said he didn’t see it, which is ridiculous because it’s so obvious.”
Instead, the doctor “kind of wondered if it was psychosomatic,” said Gamble. She responded with, “no, I’ve had the nerve conduction studies done. It’s proven that my muscles are wasting.”
Gamble also saw a spine surgeon “who said she believes it’s a back injury.”
But one doctor Gamble saw later — a rheumatologist — was willing to draw a connection between her injuries and her vaccination.
“[The] rheumatologist said, ‘I don’t know what the big issue is. This is a vaccine injury.’ And she wrote me a letter to show people that I can’t be boosted.”
‘You kind of lose everything, don’t you?’
Unfortunately, Gamble said, Canada’s COVID-19 regulations restrict the extent to which exemptions are recognized.
Gamble told The Defender:
“I still can’t get a legal exemption, which is kind of important in a way because in Canada you can be refused a job. So, if I get better and I’m hoping I can go find employment again, they have the right to tell me that they’re not going to hire me because I’m not up to date on my booster. Or even traveling to another country — it’s up to them if they’re going to let me in if I’m not up to date on all this stuff.
“This government doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge the neurological damage. They only — from what I was told — give you an exemption if it’s a PEG allergy or if you have myocarditis, but not for neurological damage.”
As a result, said Gamble, “I’m going in circles here.” She described being told by a doctor that she “just happen[s] to be one of the people who ‘fall through the cracks’” — an obstacle that has also prevented her from collecting employment insurance.
“I don’t qualify for anything in my own country. And they have a vaccination injury support program, but very few people are getting paid out from that. It has to be ‘severe’ and it has to be permanent, and I don’t know if they’re going to consider this ‘severe,’ but right now I can’t work because I have no muscles left in my hands.”
Gamble did get severance pay, she said, but everything else “has been denied, denied.”
“The government in Canada, they certainly aren’t doing anything for people who are injured by the vaccine,” Gamble said. “So, you kind of lose everything, don’t you? And then you’re put in this category that you never wanted to be a part of.”
Despite these challenges and obstacles, Gamble perseveres, even though she can’t work.
“There are things that I want to do,” she said. “I want to start exercising, but I’m even scared of that because you see these videos [of people who] died suddenly … a lot of people apparently have died while they’ve been playing sports. So that’s a little bit concerning for me, and just in general, just still not knowing what happened to me.”
Online support groups for vaccine-injured individuals ‘a godsend’
In contrast to her experience with most doctors and many friends, who dismissed her condition, Gamble praised the support she’s received from members of online support groups for vaccine-injured individuals.
“It’s been a godsend,” she said. “For the first seven or eight months, I’m on my couch and I’m feeling my muscles wasting and I’m struggling to walk. Anybody that I tried to talk to that didn’t have an injury, they assumed it had to be something else, because they’ve been told that these vaccines are ‘safe and effective.’”
But participation in online groups, such as the Vaccine Injury/Side Effects Support Group on Facebook, has allowed Gamble to interact with “decent” people who “don’t judge” and who have experienced similar symptoms and conditions as her.
“I have found a few women with the exact same injuries that I have,” she said. “It was nice to know that there are other people out there, that you’re not alone. We don’t all share the same symptoms, but we share a lot of similar symptoms, and so I can say, ‘so-and-so tried this, well I’m going to try it.’”
Gamble said she’s not sure the medical system will ever regain her trust. But she had some advice for others experiencing vaccine injuries.
“People need to realize if they get injured by this vaccine, probably medically they’re not going to get a lot of help or [doctors] are going to try to tell them it wasn’t the vaccine.”