Monday, 06 December 2021

After having a covid jab I had to give up my dream of career in police

After having a covid jab I had to give up my dream of career in police

A YOUNG woman feared she was going to die when blood clots appeared on her lungs after she had the coronavirus jab.

Imogen Allen also contracted covid-19 while in hospital receiving treatment and almost needed emergency heart surgery.

She may have to be on medication for the rest of her life to help her breathe.

Now the 22-year-old says she wished she had never taken up the offer of a vaccine.

Miss Allen, from Woodcote, faces months of recuperation and will have to give up her dreams of a career in the police.

The former showjumper has also been told not to ride or do any strenuous exercise as it may make her condition worse.

She had a first dose of the Moderna vaccine on July 24 at the Triangle Pharmacy in Tilehurst, thinking she would need it if she wanted to travel at a later date.

She has a fear of injections and was fighting back tears while waiting for the jab.

Miss Allen, who lives with parents, Chris and Tessa, in Pot Kiln Lane, said: “I have always been extremely wary of the covid vaccines. I wouldn’t say I was anti-vax, just very apprehensive of the potential long-term side effects.

“I was the only one in my family who would say, ‘Look at this story’ and would read up on people’s experiences of having had it.

“My whole family were double vaccinated and every day they told me that I was being silly and to just give in and get it.

“While I was being careful, I knew eventually that I would get it. I just wanted to wait a little longer.

After the jab, she felt fine apart from an ache in her upper arm but two days later she began to struggle for breath, felt sick and had chest pains, which would get worse when she was walking upstairs.

She put this down to being tired from working during the day and giving beauty treatments in the evenings.

Miss Allen said: “During the day I worked in the office at the Swan at Streatley so I didn’t really notice the shortness of breath at first. I just thought I was a lot more unfit than I had felt.

“But in the evening I do eyelash treatments in my granny’s spare room in Purley and I would become breathless after taking clients upstairs.

“Usually when going upstairs it takes a couple of moments to catch your breath if walking fast and going straight into a conversation.

“However, I was struggling to respond and gasping for breath between sentences. Clients would ask me if I was okay.

“I am not an unfit person so I didn’t know why it was happening and it was getting worse every day.”

She struggled on for about a week, hoping her condition would improve but it continued to deteriorate.

Miss Allen recalled: “I did an eyelash procedure, which took a couple of hours, and I started to feel lightheaded, like I might do if I was hungry, and was feeling sick.

“Once my client had left, I fell asleep in the room for a couple of hours. My granny just thought I was tired as I had been working from 9am to 5pm at the Swan and then from 6pm to 10pm doing treatments. I just thought I was overtired.”

The following day, Sunday, August 1, she was due to go on a camping holiday for a few days at Woolacombe Bay in north Devon with her boyfriend Joe Barrett and about 15 members of his family but she still felt unwell.

Miss Allen said: “I made my bed and was dripping with sweat and panting like I had just run 100m and ended up collapsing on it.

“I don’t know why I didn’t go to hospital but I just thought I was having a bad day and would be all right.”

Her parents persuaded her to call the 111 NHS number even though she was convinced she would soon recover. Miss Allen said: “The operator said they would call me back in an hour but they didn’t. I guess it was because they were so busy.

“I started packing and after every item I put in my bag I was gasping. I was just so weak and didn’t know what was wrong with me.

“My mum ended up helping me pack. She said I was crazy to be going on holiday and I was crying because I didn’t want to miss it.

“I had spent the money and it was the only getaway that we had planned for this year so I wanted to go and thought the change of scenery would do me good.”

She was given a lift to Mr Barrett’s home in Cholsey to stay the night before setting off for Devon the next morning.

Miss Allen said: “It was hard to get to sleep that night. I couldn’t sleep on my side or flat on my back, so I had to be slightly elevated so my lungs would open up. I could get the air in but it just was not doing anything.

“I was eventually called back by 111 at 4.30am but I was asleep by then.

“The next morning even brushing my hair made me feel sick. Joe packed the car so I only had to get in it and he drove.” They stopped
during the four-hour trip but she found even walking from the car difficult.

When they arrived at the camp site, she couldn’t find the energy to help groundworker Mr Barrett, 24, to pitch their tent, which upset her.

But it was when they went for a walk in search of a fishing lake that she finally realised there was something seriously wrong with her.

Miss Allen said: “We went through some woods, got lost and had to go up a hill to reach the lake.

“I walked up it very slowly and when I eventually made it to the top I was flat out, dripping with sweat and said that I needed to go back to the tent.

“When I got there I called 111 and after answering some questions, the operator wanted to send an ambulance but I refused because I felt embarrassed. They were fine with that but had a paramedic call to assess me instead.

“When they called back they said I needed to go to A&E. I was upset because I didn’t want to ruin the holiday for everyone.”

She was taken to North Devon District Hospital in Barnstable, about 25 minutes away, where she was given an electrocardiogram test.

Miss Allen said: “I told them everything that had happened, how I was breathless and couldn’t walk around the camp site. I was getting palpitations, which you could see through my T-shirt.

“I was on my own as Joe wasn’t allowed in due to the covid restrictions and had to wait outside in the car.”

By the time she was seen by doctor she had become worried.a

Miss Allen said: “I was told that I needed blood tests, which was my worst fear. I always decline an injection but I had been waiting for so long I knew I had to do it because I knew something was wrong.

“It took four different doctors numerous attempts to get blood from me. They were putting the needle in but I was stone cold and my veins were hidden because I was so terrified.

“I was shaking like a leaf between each attempt and after each time I went back to the waiting room. In the end they got a glass of warm water and put it on my arm to help get the blood.”

She had a chest X-ray at 12.30am and another electrocardiogram but had to wait hours before being given the devastating news about her condition.

Miss Allen said: “They allowed Joe into the hospital at 3am and by the time the doctor called us through we had been there for 11 hours. I was taken to a different part of the hospital and into a room with a bed, which I thought was strange.

“She sat me down on the bed and looked as if she was going to cry. She said, ‘I’m really sorry but this is really, really bad news’.

“She said I had a massive bilateral pulmonary embolism [a blood clot on the lung].

“I don’t know how I managed to hold back tears but I have never felt fear like that before.

“I had known there must be something wrong but never thought it would be so serious.

“I asked if I was going to die. She said ‘no’ but that they needed to treat it.

“They put a cannula in my arm and rushed me off for a CT scan at about 5am. They had to flush my veins with dye, which gave me a burning feeling. Joe had also been up all this time calling my family to tell them what was happening. We were like zombies.

“I started having Clexane treatment, an extremely painful injection into my tummy at 6am and 6pm.

“This breaks the blood down so it is thinner so my body doesn’t produce any more clots. It stings for about 10 minutes after you have it and it had me wriggling around on the bed.”

She was then admitted to a ward at the hospital.

Miss Allen said: “I felt so out of place without Joe and my family, who were on their way. My mum, dad and sister arrived at about 1pm on the Tuesday.

“My breathing at this stage was okay as I was lying still but I had a mild chest pain. I was only allowed one person by my bed for one hour a day but my parents were able to wheel me out for half an hour.

“The rest of the time I was just pottering round. I was on the phone giving friends and family updates.

“Every morning and night I had to have an injection and I had my observations done every four hours — my heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure — but my breathing got worse through the week.”

She was given an echocardiogram, or echo heart scan, which confirmed her condition.

Miss Allen said: “I asked the doctor if she was worried by what she saw and she said, ‘It looks like someone with two large blood clots’.

“I was struggling and was told if my breathing did not improve I would have to be transferred to Plymouth or Exeter for a thrombectomy, which is very dangerous.

“It is lifesaving surgery where they go in and physically remove the clots but if it goes wrong, you could bleed to death.

“I was told this just before I was going to bed so I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was petrified that I was close to dying.

“The respiratory specialist said I had permanent scarring and damage to my heart and lungs but I would only need the surgery if I didn’t improve or they needed to speed things up. I was told it would be three more days in hospital. In the meantime, my family were booking hotels by the night as they didn’t know whether I was staying or going.

“They even spent one night with Joe’s family in my tent, which was heartbreaking for me as it was almost like I had died and they were all together without me.”

Thankfully, her condition improved by the Friday evening and she was told she could go home to recuperate.

That evening, she was met by a a pharmacist who explained her medication, rivaroxaban, an anti-coagulant designed to prevent more blood clots.

Initially she took pills twice a day for two weeks, which was extended to three months. She was told she may need them for the rest of her life.

When she was in a wheelchair ready to leave the hospital a member of staff ran over to her to deliver more bad news.

Miss Allen said: “She said, ‘I am going to ruin your day — you have got covid. Your PCR test came back positive’. The first thing I thought was I had been on a ward with a lot of older ladies. In the whole hospital there were only four people with covid. I was tested in A&E and on the Wednesday and was negative both times.

“I was tested on the Friday and that was positive so I must have got it in hospital.”

Her father picked her up in his car and a borrowed caravan and they stayed the night in that before driving home the next morning.

They stopped every hour so Miss Allen could stretch her legs and she wore a mask in the car with the windows down for the air flow.

When they got home she went straight to her bedroom to self-isolate as her mother is clinically vulnerable, having been successfully treated for breast cancer last year and skin cancer this year, and her sister Mia, 19, suffers from asthma.

Miss Allen said: “I was in my bedroom where I have my own bathroom and my meals were delivered.

“I didn’t see my mum or sister for 10 days. Everyone took PCR tests and everyone came back negative, including my dad. It was horrible being at home and not having my family able to look after me or get a cuddle.

“I was being called by the hospital in Devon every day to see how I was.”

She finished isolating on August 15 but has been told it could take at least three months until her breathing improves.

She has been inundated with get well cards and gifts and her parents bought a miniature Jack Russell puppy, Teddy, to help keep her spirits up.

Miss Allen said: “I try to do a lap of the garden every day but the doctors said my breathing won’t get any better for at least three months and it could be longer.

“I still have shortness of breath and it feels like someone is sitting on my chest. It’s like every breath doesn’t do much.

“I was lucky covid didn’t kill me. I was terrified and have never been so scared as I have been in the last few weeks.

“I am on rivaroxaban and am awaiting my urgent haematology, cardiology and respiratory appointments at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.”

Miss Allen, who attended Cranford House School and The Henley College, has been advised to stop all strenuous exercises which means giving up joining Thames Valley Police as a detention officer, which she was due to do next month.

She said: “With the police there is a training process with a bleep test. The doctors have warned me that if I did it, this could lead to a fatal.

“The police say they can’t continue my application as the job requires me to put people into cells and break up fights and things like that. It is the wrong thing to go into.

“I can’t continue with what I had hoped to be my forever career but, to be honest, I am so happy that I am here.”

Miss Allen, who competed at showjumping, has also been told she shouldn’t ride horses.

She does hope to rearrange her 21st birthday party, which was supposed to have taken place in April last year but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was to be a 200-guest masquerade ball at Badgemore Park in Henley, which would have cost about £5,000, and she was meant to arrive in a helicopter.

She said: “The party was probably a year’s worth of planning and a lot of money had been spent on it. I was a bit sad but I will be doing it next year if I can.”

Miss Allen hasn’t been given a formal explanation for what caused her condition, although she was told that it was “vaccine-related”.

She said: “The way I deteriorated after the jab, it must be that. I have never had breathing or heart problems in my life and it only started to go wrong after I had the vaccine.”

It was suggested to her that she may have tested positive for covid previously without realising it but she doubts this.

Miss Allen said: “I have been tested for covid twice a week for months for work purposes and haven’t been unwell. To me, it is not even a question. We spoke to my old GP who said it was likely to be vaccine-related.

“If I knew then what I know now there is no way I would have had the vaccine. There have been people I have spoken to who have had the same symptoms — blood clots on the lungs and inflammation of the heart walls.

“I am not encouraging other people not to have the jab but I do want to raise awareness of what could happen so people can make an informed choice based on the risks and are aware of what could happen.

“I am not one to talk about it if I am around people who are really pro the vaccine because everyone should be allowed to make their own choice and have their own views but this has changed my whole life — and not for the better.”

To read more about Miss Allen’s story, follow @imyallen
on Instagram

More News:

POLL: Have your say