May 5, 2017

Ian, Brisbane

Ian, 70

Retired Government investigator, TV producer & grandfather who has survived eight episodes of pneumonia, BRISBANE

Retired Government investigator, TV producer, father-to-one and grandfather-to-three, Ian, 70, Brisbane, has led a full and varied life to date. Yet, despite his positive outlook, Ian acknowledges his life could have ended prematurely on multiple occasions.

Ian has been struck down by pneumonia eight times throughout his life, and hospitalised on at least five of those occasions. Although he understood the serious and potentially life-threatening effects of pneumonia as a child, having heard of deaths from the disease in Victoria while growing up, Ian did not envision the toll it would take on his personal life.

Ian most recently contracted pneumonia in October 2016. Although he was familiar with the signs and symptoms – fatigue, coughing phlegm, a clogged chest, spitting up blood, and feeling extremely unwell – Ian was nonetheless hospitalised, rendering him isolated and unable to spend time with his grandchildren. He is grateful to have survived this devastating episode.

Nowadays, Ian is well prepared for any further re-occurrences of pneumonia. He also understands he is at high risk of pneumonia, living with asthma, diabetes, and heart problems, and being aged over 65. Ian is a keen advocate for giving pneumonia the respect it deserves, and does everything within his power to protect himself from re-infection, including vaccination.

This is Ian’s story.

“I first contracted pneumonia a long, long time ago, in the 60s. I was in hospital already from minor surgery and I picked up the illness there.

“It was really bad. I had a lot of rubbish in my chest, I was spitting up blood, I felt horrible, and I was really, really sick,” said Ian.

Ian’s first clash with pneumonia became very grave. Fortunately for Ian, the hospital doctors and nurses recognised the ailing health, but unluckily, the treatment was even more painful than Ian could have ever imagined.

“We tried to treat the infection with regular antibiotics, and I thought I was going to be ok. However, my body didn’t respond too well,” Ian said.

“The nurse had to administer an extremely potent, powdered formula of antibiotics that was injected into my legs. It was excruciating. I couldn’t walk for a month. It may have saved my life, but I still have nightmares about that injection.”

Ian experienced another seven, subsequent episodes of pneumonia, which took a great toll on him, both personally and professionally. 

“I used to be a Federal Government investigator. I had a heart attack due to a problem that runs in my family when I was 32, and I retired for a bit then. Later, I worked in television writing documentaries,” said Ian.

“Each time I had pneumonia, I was basically disabled. I’ve been in hospital at least five times and completely bed-ridden on the other occasions.

“Pneumonia has cost me a fortune financially. I couldn’t work, socialise with my friends, and most recently, and importantly, spend time with my granddaughter. That’s really taken a toll, because she’s the best. She says the funniest things and wants to be a real-estate agent like her mummy and daddy. I always think she’s four and a half years old, going on 38!”

These days, although Ian works hard to stay fit and healthy, pneumonia has taken its toll on his body. While he still finds time to fish and write, Ian admits his fitness is nowhere near where it once was.

“I’ve got scarred lungs. Much of my body still works well, but I can’t run and I’m short of breath most of the time.

“I used to be very active, but it’s all gone downhill over the last five years,” Ian said.

Ian has had some tough lessons, but now knows what factors put him and others at risk of infection. He is also well- versed in how to react should pneumonia strike again.

“I’m a walking risk factor – I’ve had heart problems, diabetes, asthma, and I’m over 65. You only need one of these risk factors, but I guess I have the full house.

“Now, I recognise the symptoms and, when they arise, I hit it with everything I’ve got. You have to treat pneumonia with great respect and prepare for it. I’ve seen the devastating effects when people fail to take their health seriously. My dad died from asthma in the back of our car, and I’ve been to many children’s funerals,” said Ian.

Ian is aware of the role that vaccinations can play in protecting his health, and is a keen advocate, helping to spread the word to others who may not be aware of this preventative health measure.

“I’ve had all my vaccinations now, including pneumococcal pneumonia in June 2016, and I urge others to do the same. It’s really easy – I get a text from my GP and I popped in and got it for free.

“All Australians aged 65 and over are at risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia. If that is you, be vigilant, see your doctor, treat fast, and don’t hesitate to ring triple zero should it become a medical emergency,” Ian said.