May 5, 2017

Maree, Perth

Widowed mother, grandmother & former hospital worker with chronic lung problems who thought she was going to die from pneumonia, PERTH

 Former hospital worker, widowed mother-to-three and grandmother-to-five, Maree, 76, Perth, was hospitalised for 10 days after being hit with pneumonia on top of her chronic lung problems.

Maree was rushed to hospital in the middle of the night by her son, after waking up and being unable to speak or breathe.

Already suffering with multiple lung conditions, contracting pneumonia knocked Maree off her feet, and it took her six long months to recover.  

Luckily for Maree, she is still here to tell the tale through her love of writing short stories and is encouraging others at risk to be vaccinated, so they can avoid the potentially devastating effects of pneumonia.

This is Maree’s story.

“I had gone to bed early with a sore throat while one of my sons was staying with me just after New Year’s Eve in 2015. I managed to fall asleep, but awoke in the middle of the night. I couldn’t catch my breath because I was coughing so much.

“I woke my son and he could see something was seriously wrong, but I couldn’t even speak to tell him how awful I felt. He rang Health Direct and they told him to get me to the hospital as soon as possible,” said Maree.

“I honestly thought I was going to die there and then. It was that bad. I’m not sure there is a worse feeling than not being able to catch your breath. I’m so glad my son was there to look after me.

“I ended up spending 10 days in hospital until I could be discharged. My friends told me I sounded like I was barking like a dog during that period.”

After giving up secretarial work at Princess Margaret Hospital’s Social Work Department to care for her sick husband, Willem, Maree was herself diagnosed with a number of medical conditions after his death. Her episode of pneumonia was made all the worse by already having to cope with several lung diseases. These included asbestosis, pulmonary hypertension in the lungs, interstitial lung disease, bronchiectasis, and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as experiencing four clots on her lungs.

“I regularly attend a pulmonary hypertension support group. Recently we were encouraged to write a letter to our own lungs, as a coping mechanism for dealing with the issues they were bringing to our health. Mine was called “Why Me?” I talked about how hard I was finding it to cope, why it’s best to take one step at a time and to find energy where you can,” Maree said.

“Our group also meets to do short walks and other appropriate exercises for people with hypertension. It’s really only other people who have lung disease that can truly know what you’re experiencing. It is a hidden illness and lots of people don’t understand how much it negatively impacts on your daily life.”

Maree finds it hard to travel too far from her house. She worries about the impact air conditioning has on her immune system in public places. This means that Maree has to enjoy hobbies around her home, including tinkering on her piano. She is also a keen advocate on how other Australians over 65 can protect themselves from pneumonia.

“Playing the piano is something I’ve done since I was nine years old. I reached Grade 7 when I was in high school. I still love playing, although even moving the stool out from under the piano gets me short of breath nowadays,” said Maree.

“I made sure to get the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine a couple of years ago and have told my friends to do so as well. I believe strongly that having the vaccine and giving up smoking will lead to much healthier lungs! I’m visiting my GP soon to get my flu jab too as I make sure to do that every year.”