To highlight the importance of annual influenza (flu) vaccination for everyone age 6 months and older, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is collaborating with Forever Freckled (a lifestyle blog authored by 3 sisters), to share the story of one sister’s scary experience with pneumonia-related flu this season.
For weeks I had been watching the news and reading heartbreaking stories about the dangers of flu this season. It never really crossed my mind that this could happen to me or that I could suffer bad complications from the flu. Maybe I am naive, but I always figured I was blessed with a great immune system and this was never a concern for me. Well, maybe I should have been a little more prepared.
A week prior to being hospitalized, I came down with the flu. To say that it was horrible would be an understatement. I suffered from severe body aches, high fevers, fatigue, and a horrible cough. As a mother, being sick with the flu is difficult both physically and emotionally. It is impossible to explain to a 2-year-old boy why mommy is home but can’t take care of him. I spent five days lying in bed, doing my very best not to infect my son or my husband.
About seven days after the onset of my symptoms, my fever had resolved, but my cough was getting progressively worse. This cough seemed different to me, but I figured it was just one more symptom I would have to battle. The cough progressed and I started to develop chest pain. That was the tipping point. After hearing such tragic stories about the dangers of the circulating strains of flu, I didn’t want to take any chances and I drove right over to the hospital ER. I was hysterical. I was scared. I walked in and the ER was packed. It was a true awakening of the impact the flu. There was a three-hour wait and stretchers were lining the hallways. Is this really happening? I was mad at myself for letting it reach this point.
What about the flu shot?
Before I continue, the answer is NO I did not get the flu shot. I am not sure I will ever forgive myself for that. I put my own health at risk. Of course, I took my son to get a flu shot and my husband got one, too. Knowing this year we were going to try for a second child, I didn’t feel comfortable getting it.
Had I done my research, I would have learned that it is not only safe to get a flu shot while trying to get pregnant, but that pregnancy is a risk factor for complications of the flu.
Even if I decided to get the shot, when was I going to find the time to go? Isn’t that every busy mom’s excuse? As a mother, you are so focused on everyone and everything else in your life that you tend to neglect your own health.
I spent almost 24 hours in the ER before I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctor explained that most likely I had developed pneumonia as a complication of flu and that due to my low oxygen levels, I would need to be admitted to the hospital. I immediately started sobbing.
Pneumonia? Was I 90 years old? That’s what I felt like. How did I let myself get this sick? I spent four days in the hospital. Four long days away from my family. My oxygen levels were low. I couldn’t walk from my bed to the door without completely running out of breath. My coughing was so intense that I tore multiple muscles in my chest. The pain was bad and I was really scared. This wasn’t something to take lightly. I knew that many people had died from the flu this year and for a few moments, I was terrified that I could be one of them.
After days of antibiotics and fluids, I started to feel a bit better. My oxygen levels were rising and they finally released me. It’s been five days since I was sent home and I am still in bed. My doctors told me it could be four to six weeks before I get back to normal. I still don’t feel like myself and I am ready to have my life back.
Was this all worth it? I look back and learned an incredibly valuable lesson. As crazy as life gets, you have to take time to ensure your health and well-being. Since I got home, I have started a vitamin regimen to help boost my immune system. I am drinking more water. I am focused on taking care of myself. I will get the flu shot every year. Nothing else in life is important if you don’t have your health. This was a real wake-up call for me and fortunately, I am able to share my story to remind others about the importance of an annual flu shot!
To read other real-life stories about the value of vaccination and the dangers of remaining unvaccinated, visit www.nfid.org/real-stories-real-people.
To join the conversation, follow NFID (@NFIDvaccines) and Forever Freckled (@4everfreckled) on Twitter using the hashtag #FightFlu, like NFID and Forever Freckled on Facebook, follow NFID and Forever Freckled on Instagram, join the NFID Linkedin Group, and subscribe to NFID Updates.