Brenda’s story

Bronchiectasis, Other lung conditions

Retiree, mother & grandmother who was hospitalised with pneumonia & spent a month mounting a recovery from the illness.

Mother and grandmother, Brenda, 71, Adelaide, who has lived with bronchiectasis, since six months of age, developed a severe cough, chronic sinus pain and a loss of appetite in July, 2013.

After taking a few days off work from her part-time job, and with her illness unabating, Brenda visited her GP, who performed an X-ray of of her lungs and a blood test before placing her on a nebuliser. The following day Brenda was bedridden. Growing increasingly concerned for her own welfare, Brenda subsequently contacted her then 92 year-old mother, who hurriedly transported Brenda to the doctor to collect her test results.

Upon arrival, Brenda was helped into a wheelchair due to her failing health, and was promptly ushered into her doctor’s rooms. After reviewing her results, Brenda’s doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia and organised for an ambulance to take her to hospital straight away.

This is Brenda’s story.

“Prior to being diagnosed with pneumonia, I was becoming increasingly ill, to the extent that I couldn’t hold myself up,” Brenda said.

“I had severe sinus pain and my body was extremely cold. I just couldn’t get warm. I was also coughing a lot, and had absolutely no appetite. When I started to cough up large volumes of mucous, I knew something was wrong.”

Brenda was soon after diagnosed with pneumonia and rushed to hospital via ambulance.

“It was all such a blur, from the point of diagnosis with pneumonia, to my arrival in hospital.

“I recall my then elderly mother sitting in the GP’s waiting room, looking extremely concerned for my welfare. She contacted my daughter and arranged for my cat to be put in the cattery just before I was rushed away.”

Brenda recalls very little of her first 24 hours in hospital. She allegedly fell into “a state of delirium” caused by the pain in her chest, and subsequent struggle to breathe.

“I was in agonising pain, and hallucinating during my first day in hospital. I recall my daughter being by my side at one point in time, but I can’t remember exactly when that was, or what I was going through at the time. It was such a frightening experience,” said Brenda.

For the ensuing four days, Brenda was hooked up to an IV drip, and administered fluids to aid her recovery in hospital. She was later moved to a repatriation hospital, where she underwent further treatment and monitoring for another four days before being discharged.

“Before leaving hospital, the doctors explained to me the seriousness of my illness, and that it would be quite some time before I mounted a full recovery from the life-threatening infection,” Brenda said.

After returning home, Brenda spent another month working on her recovery before returning to work.

“When I was battling pneumonia, it never actually occurred to me that I could have died. Looking back, however, I now fully appreciate how I cheated death. It’s such a scary thought,” Brenda said.

“I think I was too concerned with everything that was going on at the time to comprehend the seriousness of my illness.”

Nowadays, despite having made a full recovery from pneumonia, Brenda remains highly conscious of her risk of contracting the preventable infection, and works hard to protect herself from re-infection.

“I hibernate during winter, and no longer work. I keep indoors on particularly cold days, eat well, and try to keep active without overdoing it,” Brenda said.

“I’ve always had a needle phobia, but this year I’m planning to overcome my fear and to vaccinate against pneumococcal pneumonia with the government-subsidised pneumococcal vaccine.

“Given my first-hand experience of just how painful and life-threatening pneumonia can be, I plan to do whatever I can to to protect myself from re-infection.

“I urge other Australians who too are at risk of infection due to their age (65+) alone, and/or because of sickness, to speak to their doctor about how best to protect against this preventable infection, including vaccination.”

Sharing your personal experience with lung disease is a compelling and inspiring way for others to learn about and cope with their diagnosis. Your story may also encourage people to identify and act on symptoms they are experiencing, which may otherwise have been ignored.

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