Kaye’s story

COPD, Other lung conditions

Mother-to-two, grandmother-to-three and consumer health advocate Kaye, 67, Canberra, has contracted pneumonia every year for the past four consecutive years. Kaye’s immune system is compromised, for she lives with seven different diseases, including diabetes, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which all place her at significantly high risk of infection.

Kaye, who volunteers for a variety of health groups, is therefore a strong advocate for pneumococcal vaccination, particularly for those aged 65 and over, and those living with chronic conditions. The dedicated health group volunteer, experienced her first episode of pneumonia in 2014.

“I woke up one morning feeling extremely unwell. It felt like I had a really bad cold. I was struggling to breathe and it felt like someone was sitting on my chest,” Kaye said.

As her health deteriorated over the ensuing days, Kaye grew extremely concerned for her welfare.

“Over the next few days, I developed a really horrible cough. My body was aching all over, and I was increasingly struggling to breathe and to sleep due to my cough.
“That’s when I started to become very concerned.”

Kaye subsequently sought professional advice for her doctor.

“I visited my local GP, who diagnosed me with pneumonia via a sputum test. I was quite shocked because I had very little understanding of the seriousness of pneumonia at that point in time. My GP placed me on steroids and antibiotics. However the steroids negatively affected my blood sugar levels due to my diabetes. Because I’m also allergic to penicillin, there was very little available to effectively treat my pneumonia,” Kaye said.

It took her more than three months to recover from her first episode of pneumonia.

“Post- diagnosis, it took me at least three months to start feeling anything like normal again. I had to keep on top of all of my other illnesses during my recovery as well, which was extremely hard. Since this episode, I’ve contracted pneumonia on another three occasions, and on each occasion, I tend to spend
longer recovering from the infection,” Kaye said.

Because Kaye lives with a number of diseases, she is highly susceptible to contracting illnesses like pneumonia. She therefore works hard to take precautionary measures to help protect her against the infection.

“I stay home as much as I can, especially in winter. I even wear a mask when I go out, because I pick things up so easily.”

Kaye has been vaccinated against the pneumococcal pneumonia strain of pneumonia, and strongly urges her fellow Australians to do the same. She also encourages people to consider the welfare of others when unwell.

“I think people who are at high risk of pneumonia due to their age alone (65 plus), and the immunocompromised should vaccinate against pneumococcal pneumonia. Vaccination is the best defence against this strain of pneumonia, and believe me, no one wants to experience this horrible infection.

“It’s also so important to stay inside if you are unwell to avoid spreading the infection. Some members of our community, like me, are highly susceptible to contracting illnesses, which can prove fatal. So it’s important to consider others, and protect against vaccine-preventable infections.”

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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