Carole’s story

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, Other lung conditions

Single lung transplant recipient and retired nurse who contracted pneumonia while overseas. Mother, grandmother, former nurse and single lung transplant recipient, Carole, 72, Brisbane who lives with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, experienced her second episode of pneumonia while holidaying in the United Kingdom during 2014.

She was subsequently hospitalised for almost three weeks in two different hospitals, and unable to travel home. It took Carole up to 12 months to mount a full recovery from the devastating infection, from which she now protects against with vaccination and certain lifestyle measures.

This is Carole’s story.

In 2014, while visiting her family in the United Kingdom, Carole started to feel extremely unwell.

“I’d been in the UK for three months living with my sister, and at the end of my trip I started to feel really horrible. I was having extreme difficulty breathing, I had a really high temperature and I just hurt everywhere,” Carole said.

Carole was subsequently rushed to hospital due to her history with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

“My sister called the ambulance because I couldn’t breathe, and I was rushed to the local hospital. I spent 10 days in the local hospital where they put me on IV antibiotics and fluids. They also had me under general nursing care because I was too sick to do anything at all,” Carole said.

“I was then transferred to a specialist hospital in London, as I was a previous lung transplant recipient, where I spent another 10 days under specialist care.”

Having contracted pneumonia, Carole understands the severity of the infection and its potentially devastating impact.

“Contracting pneumonia feels like someone has put a band around your chest and you can’t breathe. You experience extreme difficulty breathing, a really high temperature, and hurt everywhere. You’re unsure whether you are capable of taking your next breath. Not being able to breathe is absolutely terrifying,” Carole said.

It took Carole almost 12 months to fully recover this episode of pneumonia.

“After returning to Australia, I ended up spending an additional week in hospital because I had contracted another infection due to my weakened immune system.

“It took me up to 12 months to feel anything like what resembled normal again,” Carole said.

Carole has long understood the seriousness of pneumococcal pneumonia, due to her 27-year-long nursing history, during which she observed many patients succumb to the preventable infection.

“They used to call pneumonia the ‘old man’s friend’ because it stole the lives of so many older people. Frankly, it’s not a friend you want, and from what I’ve seen, it’s a horrible, horrible way to go.

“As a grandparent, I pick up every germ or illness that my grandchildren have, so it’s especially important for me to protect against vaccine-preventable infections.”

Nowadays, Carole protects against pneumococcal pneumonia through vaccination, regular exercise, following a balanced diet and practising hand hygiene. She recommends all Australians get vaccinated so they don’t have to go through what she has experienced.

“Many Australians, particularly those aged over 65, who are fit and well, believe they are immune to pneumonia, and therefore don’t require the vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia. But they absolutely do, because their age alone puts them at risk of the infection.

“Pneumonia can kill you, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Pneumococcal pneumonia is preventable. It’s important to protect yourself, and others, against the infection.”

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