Single mother struck down by pneumonia urges others to get vaccinated

Business owner and single mother-of-two, Rachael, 38, Sydney, was going about her usual weekly routine in November 2016 when she was struck down by the potentially life-threatening infection, pneumonia.

Within the following year Rachael contracted pneumonia on two more occasions, all while trying to care for her two children and keep up with their busy lives.

Rachael leads an extremely busy life, juggling two children and running a business counselling people through divorce. In 2016, during the week of her children’s school swimming carnival, Rachael developed flu-like symptoms, soreness in her chest and pain in her right lung when breathing.

During the same week, she woke up on two consecutive nights shaking uncontrollably. Mistakenly however, Rachael ignored the symptoms and carried on with her busy life. By the end of the working week she felt so unwell, she booked an appointment with a doctor, who referred her for a chest X-ray. The following morning, Rachael received her test results confirming a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Rachael’s doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics and bed rest. After a full month of being bed-ridden and completing two courses of antibiotics, Rachael finally began to feel like her normal self again.

“Fortunately, I had my family and my parents around to look after the children, which allowed me to have a complete month of rest,” said Rachael.                                       

Unfortunately, Rachel’s recovery was short-lived, as she contracted pneumonia on two more occasions throughout the ensuing year.

“I think the recovery from pneumonia is much longer than one month of bed rest and I can only assume that the stresses of being a single parent and running my own business were taking their toll and I wore out too quickly.

“On the second and third occasion of contracting pneumonia, I didn’t have as much family support, so I struggled a lot with basic tasks such as making dinners and school drop-offs.

“I spent the following year worrying about doing anything that would put my body under stress and that would leave me bed-ridden again, so I did very little activity.

“I became worried when I felt anything unusual going on in my lungs.”

The experience was one Rachael would not wish upon anyone, particularly given the physical, emotional and financial toll the vaccine-preventable infection can place on the affected individual and their family.

Rachael recommends Australians consider their lung health, particularly those aged 65 and above who are at risk of pneumonia purely due to their age.

“Pneumonia was incredibly painful and I wouldn’t wish the infection on anyone,” Rachael explains.  

“Often when you don’t deal with stress, I think it can manifest in other ways. That was certainly true for me, given I contracted pneumonia on so many occasions within such a short period of time.

“Those who are at risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia – the immunocompromised and those over the age of 65 – should vaccinate against the infection.

“It was a terrible experience, even for someone like me, who’s young and generally healthy.” 

Rachael works from home which helps to minimise the stress in her life, and to prioritise her health, so she can best support her children.

“The key learning I took away from my experience was that if I’m unwell, I need to prioritise my health and to visit the doctor straight away, even if it’s going to cut into my day.”

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