Active retiree and grandmother-to-three who has survived 12 episodes of pneumonia. Jill, 65, Newcastle works hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating well and staying active. However Jill is acutely aware that lifestyle alone is insufficient to protect her against the potentially life-threatening infection, pneumococcal pneumonia.
This is because Jill lives with Pulmonary Fibrosis and severe, permanent scarring to her lungs resulting from 12 episodes of pneumonia.
This is Jill’s cautionary tale.
“I experienced my first episode of pneumonia in October 2006. After feeling terrible for a week, I visited my GP who performed various tests that confirmed my worst fear – I was living with Pulmonary Fibrosis and had also contracted pneumonia,” said Jill.
Jill has since experienced 12 separate episodes of pneumonia given her high susceptibility to the often devastating infection.
“Nowadays, I’m extremely conscious of my lung health. As soon as I start to feel unwell, or in the early stages of a chest infection, I head straight to the emergency department at my local hospital.”
Jill’s most recently contracted pneumonia in April 2017.
“My most recent episode of pneumonia in 2017 was awful. I had a temperature, was sweating and felt extremely lethargic. So I visited my GP straight away.
“Suspecting I had contracted the flu, and due to my medical history, my GP referred me straight to hospital, where I was admitted immediately. A subsequent chest X-ray and blood tests confirmed I had once again, contracted pneumonia,” Jill said.
Jill was treated with intravenous antibiotics, in combination with a corticosteroid used to treat lung disease while hospitalised, before being discharged with a week-long course of oral antibiotics. However, after completing this first course of antibiotics, and having made next to no improvement, Jill returned to her GP who armed her with a second week-long course of antibiotics to clear the infection. Four weeks later, Jill finally shook the infection.
“I don’t think may people understand the seriousness of pneumonia. I had a brother who lived with Pulmonary Fibrosis, and died from a pneumonia-like infection. It’s a horrific, painful, dangerous and deadly disease,” Jill said.
Jill was first vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia infection at 60 years of age at her doctor’s insistence, given she is immunocompromised, and once again after celebrating her 65th birthday.
“Otherwise healthy Australians aged 65 and over qualify for a free pneumococcal vaccination due to their age alone. However, given I live with a chronic disease, and have a significant history with pneumonia, the doctors ensure I’m vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia every five years – a precautionary health measure that I’m very much committed to,” Jill said.
Jill also proactively protects against the flu each year with vaccination.
“It’s very important for anyone aged 65 and over, and those living with medical conditions, to speak to their doctor about how best to protect against preventable infections, including vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia, which is free to all of these particular groups.
“Let my story be a cautionary tale for others. Pneumonia is a horrific, agonising, life-threatening infection, and one that I never want to run the risk of
contracting against. Vaccination is the best defence against pneumococcal pneumonia.”