Four years ago, Nicole took a day off work to attend her 5-year-old twin boys’ sports day. Carrying her one year old on her hip, and feeling slightly unwell with a cough, Nicole watched on proudly as her boys took part in the special day.
That night, sick and exhausted, Nicole started coughing up blood. Finding it hard to walk from the bedroom to the toilet, Nicole decided she would visit her GP the next morning. Upon waking, Nicole felt dreadful, unable to even help her kids get ready for school she went straight to her GP, and after a quick examination she was sent by ambulance to hospital.
After x-rays and numerous tests, Nicole was told she had pneumonia in both lungs. Further tests revealed influenza A and a bacterial infection. Nicole was immediately transferred to an isolation room in the intensive care unit (ICU).
“A nurse asked me in a serious tone “Do you have any children? Where are your children?” At this point I realised I was in deep trouble,” said Nicole.
“I blurted out “What, am I going to die?” To my horror she didn’t answer and left the room. I was then told by another nurse that I needed to get my husband Troy to the hospital as soon as possible.”
Still in disbelief, Nicole was having trouble wrapping her head around how she had declined so quickly. One minute she was at sports day the next she is in ICU wearing a mask on her face that forces air into her lungs at a rapid rate.
Nicole remembers her husband arriving at the hospital and the moment they locked eyes to share a look that was thick with fear.
“All I could think of at the time was my boys. My family relies on me – my boys were so little and they needed their mum,” said Nicole.
“I couldn’t imagine how they would cope emotionally if I didn’t make it. It was such a strong feeling of responsibility – I couldn’t put them through that and I couldn’t leave Troy to manage everything on his own.”
Fortunately, Nicole’s situation improved. She was transferred to a general ward and returned to work three weeks later. However, Nicole’s ordeal was not over. She suffered significant pain from cracked ribs caused by coughing, and pain killers made her too groggy to concentrate so it meant another week off work.
“Before this experience I had never had a flu shot,” said Nicole.
“I had no idea that in this day and age young, healthy people actually died of the flu. At the same time that I was ill, I read a story in the paper about a mother of three in her 30s who died of the flu. This really brought home to me how lucky I was.”
Nicole’s message is simple: “I want everyone to know that there is an easy way to protect yourself and the ones you love from a preventable and potentially very serious illness.”
“Annual influenza vaccination will protect your life and in turn protect your loved ones – I never want to put my family and friends through that worry again.”
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