HomeHealth AwarenessTake Influenza Seriously

Take Influenza Seriously

Influenza sucks. That’s all there is to it. 

Before I had influenza, I thought it was a serious cold that was only dangerous to older people and young people with compromised immune systems. I was wrong.  At the age of 38 with no previous health concerns, it nearly killed me. 

Last January I got sick. I thought it was a cold and tried to work through it. By the end of the week I was in the hospital, on complete life support in a medically induced coma with doctors and nurses working around the clock trying to save my life. Three days into my ICU stay my family was told to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. 

I lost two weeks of my life in a medically induced coma.  When I woke up, I was intubated and I discovered the severe trauma had left fluid on my brain and extreme muscle atrophy meaning the only thing I could move were my eyes.  It is the most terrifying feeling to be trapped in your body, unable to communicate, move and breathe on your own.  After fours weeks in the ICU recovering and learning to breathe and swallow again, I spent five more weeks in the neuro ward gradually learning to move and walk again. My second obstacle came when the scar tissue in my trachea restricted my breath to a point that wasn’t sustainable. I had five tracheal dilations, followed by a very invasive tracheal resection and three more months of rehabilitation.   It has been the hardest thing I have ever done. 

All told, I spent three months in hospitals, had six surgeries, one of which required opening my chest cavity, countless procedures and worst of all I missed out on hundreds of important moments in my family and three boys’ lives.

Without a second of hesitation, I can say that getting influenza, in my case H1N1,  has impacted my life forever.  First and foremost, I now know the importance of getting the flu shot. 

Don’t debate it, get it. 

I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone.

You see, the impact of influenza is more than physical.  It impacted me psychologically too.  Fear was ever-present for me the first month in the hospital. I was afraid of dying, being unable to move again and most of all, I was afraid I would never have my life back. 

Nine months after getting sick, I am still recovering physically and emotionally.  I’m back at work part time and continuing my physical rehabilitation. I’m working with a psychologist to manage my post-traumatic stress syndrome and anxiety. Within a year my lungs should be mostly healed although I’ll forever have a higher likelihood of lung infections.

Not only has it been traumatic for me, it has been traumatic for my children, my husband, my family and my friends. My family and close friends spent countless hours with me at the hospital and at home supporting my healing. They shed countless tears, struggled through sleepless nights and will forever hold the trauma of nearly losing me to influenza.

Living through what I did has changed my perspective on life.  Celebrate the people you love, tell them often how much you love them and how important they are to you. Celebrate the big and small moments. I am more grateful for the little moments everyday – time with my kids, my husband, my family. I know how lucky I am to be alive and I never forget that. I’m also immeasurably grateful for the wonderful doctors, nurses, and therapists who saved my life and helped me get my life back.

If there’s one thing I hope you can take away from my story, it’s that my entire illness was preventable.

For your sake and the sake of everyone you love, please get your flu shot this year and every year.

For more info on this year’s influenza immunization, and where you can get yours, visit www.ahs.ca/influenza.

Why do you get immunized? Share your flu champ reasons with us.