The doctor ran out of the emergency room and headed straight for Ellen Whitney’s car.
The worried look on her face and the alarm in her voice told her it was serious.
“Go to the emergency room,” Dr. Rebecca Vargese told Whitney as she sat in front of the Montvale Medical Center.
Just over a week after the 62-year-old Hillsdale woman received a single vaccine against Johnson and Johnson̵
Varghese, owner of Lifeline Urgent Care, had checked Whitney’s vital signs in the parking lot and sent her to the emergency room.
“She was short of breath and looked worried. And her pulse was very fast. … Vital indicators were not stable, “Vargese said.
The doctor suspects that Whitney has developed a pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the lungs.
It was soon proved that Varghese was right. Whitney is one of the few people to have developed blood clotting problems after receiving the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, the New Brunswick-based pharmaceutical giant, according to her electronic medical records.
At least 28 people across the country have developed thrombosis of the blood clotting disorder with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) among the 9 million who received the J&J vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday. Three died.
Most of the cases are among women aged 18 to 49, the CDC said. In only six cases were men involved.
The agency reported only 17 of the clotting cases as of April 25th.
Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine was paused last month so the problem could be investigated. The suspension was lifted 10 days later by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration after an independent advisory committee recommended that the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks.
However, the CDC said Wednesday that the evidence “suggests a plausible causal link” between the vaccine and TTS. Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, who oversees the CDC’s work to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, said TTS develops three to 15 days after vaccination.
This is just worse news for Johnson & Johnson.
Despite the attractiveness of the single-dose option, the J&J vaccine was found to be 66% effective in clinical trials, compared with an efficacy of about 95% for the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech images. After the break, many unvaccinated Americans said they did not want to receive the J&J vaccine due to safety concerns.
And there are a series of “breakthrough cases” involving the Johnson and Johnson shots in which people received the vaccine but still became infected with COVID-19. The New York Yankees announced this week that eight members of their organization became infected with the virus even though they had been vaccinated, according to SI.com. Last month, the team immunized 85% of its players, coaches and staff. Most were shot by J&J, the report said.
Varghese believes that the blood clots may be to blame for Whitney’s case because she received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“That’s the first thing she said,” Vargese said.
When combined with her vital signs, the doctor knew it was an emergency. The gravity of Varghese’s concern surprised Whitney, who did not realize she was facing a life-threatening problem while sitting in the car with her husband, Peter Elliott.
“What I thought was remarkable was that they didn’t even let us in,” she said. “The doctor is literally done.”
Whitney, a graphic designer for the West Essex Tribune, received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine on April 11. About a week later, she began to feel slightly unwell. She was feeling generally unwell, sore on her right side, and although she did not try to breathe, it hurt when I took a deep breath, she said.
“On my right side, like under the ribs, I felt some pain,” Whitney said. “It’s not a bad pain, it’s not enough to take something for it. But I just noticed it. “
Symptoms appeared to be minor and no Johnson & Johnson vaccine and blood clots were reported at the time. But the following week – when her symptoms began – cases began to appear.
She didn’t panic as she read the reports, but the anxiety still crept in. She has never fought a serious illness, certainly nothing to do with blood clots.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I have a reaction,'” Whitney said.
She later added: “I have no heart problems. I have no lung problems. … I don’t have diabetes. I have nothing. ”
As of April 21, she was still not feeling well and decided to make an appointment at the emergency center.
“My husband said, ‘Let’s just go to the doctor,'” she recalls.
Whitney soon learned that she had developed blood clots in both lungs – because of the vaccine, a doctor at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood told her. One of her lungs had also collapsed.
The hospital reported the Whitney case to the CDC.
“And the CDC is in touch with me,” said Whitney, who discussed her case with the Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), co-managed by the CDC and the FDA.
New Jersey does not track TTS vaccine-related cases within the state, according to Donna Leusner, director of communications at the Department of Health.
“Among those reported to the Federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), we know that there is a New Jersey woman between the ages of 18-50 who meets the definition of a case of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia or TTS. “, she said. in email. “For reasons of privacy, the health department will not provide any additional details.”
Whitney was not in much danger because she sought treatment early. But she considered what would have happened if she had not been proactive.
“What if I hadn’t gone to the emergency room?” She said.
From the emergency parking lot, she and her husband headed straight for The Valley Hospital. They arrived shortly after noon.
“I was there for 10 hours (I was tested). And they did a CAT scan, they did … an X-ray. They did everything, ”Whitney recalls. “And after I got the results of the CAT scan, they said, ‘You have a pulmonary embolism in both of your lungs.’
“They immediately gave me some blood thinner and accepted me.”
He would spend five days in the hospital.
While there, a doctor told her, “We’ve seen this,” which means we’re seeing reactions to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. At least two doctors told her that they had recently seen patients with pulmonary blood clots after receiving the J&J shot.
“It’s from the vaccine. That’s what the doctor told me, “Whitney said. “It’s from the vaccine. “
They gave her oxygen and gave her Eliquis, a blood thinner.
“I was in pain on my right side,” Whitney said. “And I also started getting – they call it myalgia, it’s muscle pain – only in different parts of my body. And my legs felt weird. So they put me down and did a sonogram on my legs to check for deep vein thrombosis. “
The pain on her right side worsened in a day or two and she was treated with morphine. Doctors suggested that she had fluid in the bottom of her lungs that her body eventually absorbed.
Whitney is still on blood thinner and continues to recover.
Its rapid action – and Varghese’s urgent response – allowed doctors to detect pulmonary emboli early.
Whitney emphasized that it was a provaccine. But she wants to raise awareness in case someone else who received Johnson and Johnson’s shot has similar symptoms.
What worries her is whether she will have to deal with blood clots for the rest of her life. It’s too early to know, the doctors told her.
“These are unexplored waters. We don’t know what these strange side effects of vaccines are, “the pulmonologist told her. “We just don’t know.”
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Spencer Kent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.