Mother-to-two special needs children, triple blood cancer survivor and consumer health advocate who has contracted pneumonia twice. Jodie, 46, Brisbane, initially contracted pneumonia in 1996, at 24 years of age. She was later diagnosed with lymphoma, after which she contracted pneumonia once again while going through chemotherapy.
Given her first-hand experience of being immunosuppressed, and subsequently at high risk of contracting infections, including pneumonia, Jodie strongly encourages all Australians to vaccinate against pneumococcal pneumonia.
This is Jodie’s story.
Jodie has long struggled with a weakened immune system and staggeringly battled, and beaten, blood cancer on three separate occasions. During her life, she has also been struck down twice by another potentially life-threatening infection – pneumonia.
In 1996, when Jodie was in her early twenties, she recalls waking up one day with a “horrible pain” on the right side of her chest and back. She also had a terrible, chesty cough, was extremely lethargic with a lot of really uncomfortable pressure around her lungs.
“I had developed a throat infection in the weeks leading up to these symptoms, so I chose to visit my GP straight away, who subsequently diagnosed me with pneumonia in my right lung via chest X-ray. I was prescribed some really strong antibiotics, which eventually helped to clear the infection. But my GP warned me, that due to my experience with pneumonia, I was now at heightened risk of re-infection,” Jodie said.
In 2006, Jodie received the devastating news that she had developed lymphoma, soon after which she contracted pneumonia again.
“I was going through chemotherapy to treat my lymphoma when I contracted pneumonia in my right lung again. I thought I had a torn muscle, because I was experiencing a very severe, sharp pain in my back,” Jodie said.
“The chemotherapy however, masked some of the symptoms of pneumonia that I had experienced during my first episode of the infection. But I was diagnosed with pneumonia in hospital after explaining my back pain to my doctor.”
Because Jodie has endured epic battles with cancer and pneumonia, and is a bone marrow transplant recipient, she is at extremely high risk of contracting viruses and other infections.
“Because I am immunosuppressed, I need to be extremely vigilant with my health and personal hygiene every day. I generally avoid large crowds, wash my hands all the time, and take hand sanitiser with me, everywhere I go. I never venture outside in winter because I know my chance of running into someone who is sick, is very high,”
“Most healthy people tend to really underestimate just how much they can compromise the health of others who are at risk of infection, particularly the immunocompromised, and how easily they can pass on germs. If I contract an infection, I can die from it.”
Jodie is a strong advocate for vaccination to protect herself, her family and members of her community from preventable infections, such as pneumococcal pneumonia.
“I’ve had my pneumococcal vaccination because I am immunosuppressed. I think every Australian who is at risk of the infection, whether due to their age alone [being over 65], or living with a chronic condition, should get their pneumococcal vaccination without hesitation.
“It’s free or subsidised for these people, so why wouldn’t they choose to protect against such a potentially life-threatening infection?” asked Jodie.
“It’s so important to care for your own health, and that of your family and friends. Pneumonia is an absolutely horrible infection that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.”