Retired kindergarten teacher, mother & grandmother who has struggled with pneumonia for the past 19 years, MELBOURNE
Retired kindergarten teacher, mother-to-four and grandmother-to-seven, Yolette, 58, Melbourne has contracted pneumonia on four occasions over the past 19 years.
After being hospitalised for two weeks with her second episode of pneumonia in 2000, Yolette’s doctor reportedly informed her that she could have died.
After contracting her fourth episode of pneumonia in 2014, Yolette was finally forced to surrender her job as a kindergarten teacher, as her immune system could not repel the bugs she was constantly exposed to in her role.
Although devastated at the loss of her career at the time, Yolette nowadays devotes her time to her four children and seven grandchildren, whom she is keen to educate about the potentially devastating respiratory infection, pneumonia.
This is Yolette’s story.
“I have to be so careful these days because my immune system is pretty weak following my four episodes of pneumonia and because I also have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) I easily pick up coughs and colds and more serious infections.
“It’s hard to believe I first contracted pneumonia in 1988, when I was put on strict bed rest. Although I found it tough to mount a recovery from that initial episode, two years later I was diagnosed with pneumonia again, which reinforced the seriousness of the infection,” said Yolette.
“I ended up in hospital for two weeks. I lost loads of weight and did not even have the strength to wash or shower myself.
“I was hooked up to a drip because I couldn’t eat. When I was finally discharged, my doctor informed me that at one stage, they thought I wasn’t going to pull through,” Yolette said.
“It took me a very long time to mount a recovery from the infection. I remember when I finally had the energy to shower for the first time in weeks, I had to use a whole bottle of conditioner to get the knots out of my hair.”
But that wasn’t Yolette’s last episode of pneumonia.
“The last time I contracted pneumonia was in 2014. At the time, I thought I just caught a bad cold.
“It wasn’t until my eldest daughter dropped by and told my husband to take me to hospital because I looked so unwell, that a subsequent chest X-ray confirmed I had contracted pneumonia again,” said Yolette.
“Luckily, I haven’t had pneumonia since. But my lung specialist at the time told me that if I didn’t quit my job, then I would had to have found another specialist, because he felt so strongly about my ailing health. In fact, he mistakenly thought I had developed Legionnaires’ disease, which is a rarer form of pneumonia.”
Yolette reluctantly took her specialist’s advice, and hasn’t worked a day since. Nowadays, she’s keen to ensure that other Australians don’t have to experience a similar ordeal.
“My daughter contracted pneumonia when she was young, and my friend’s adult daughter is also struggling with the infection at present. I don’t think people realise that pneumonia can affect absolutely anyone.
“I’ve been teaching my grandkids about their risk of infection, and the importance of washing their hands and flushing dirty tissues down the toilet to avoid spreading any germs,” Yolette said
“I’m so glad that in 2014 I was vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, and hope to raise public awareness about the seriousness of this infection, so that people don’t have to experience the long-term associated health problems that I have.
“Pneumonia can scar your lungs for life. I even used to get short of breath when walking to the letter box. It takes your body a long time to recover from this devastating infection,” said Yolette.
Yolette now invests all of her energy into maintaining her health and wellness, so that she can spend as much time as possible with her family, and continue pursuing her various hobbies from gardening to singing karaoke.
“Fortunately I’ve been in good health this year, and I’m working hard to ensure I stay this way.
“I can’t urge enough people who are at risk of pneumonia, whether due to their age or an underlying medical condition, to get vaccinated against the infection, because pneumonia is not something I would wish on anybody.” Yolette said.