Nicole’s story

Other lung conditions

Health and fitness enthusiast and mother-of-two, Nicole, 49, Sydney, contracted pneumonia in 2004 at the age of 35.

Nicole, a hard-working high school teacher, was the epitome of health. She competed in fun runs most weekends, played golf, and went to the gym every morning before work. Yet she suddenly contracted pneumonia out of the blue. Mistakenly assuming she had developed a bad cold, Nicole chose not to visit a doctor. However, she was soon rushed to hospital in the middle of the night by her husband, after her condition worsened, and she became bedridden and unable to eat or drink.

This is Nicole’s story.

Nicole loved her job as a science teacher at her local school. She was also passionate about health and fitness, photography, her children and two dogs. In 2004, she felt like she was in perfect health, until she was struck down by flu-like symptoms.

“Initially, I felt extremely lethargic and all I wanted to do was sleep. I also had a very strong, deep cough. I distinctly remember feeling the congestion in my lungs and taking a deep breath with every cough. I chose not to visit my doctor because I thought rest would improve my condition. I even went for a run, which made me feel much, much worse,” said Nicole.

Overnight, Nicole’s symptoms worsened dramatically, and her husband, Brett, rushed her to hospital.

“I felt awful. My cough got deeper and more congested and my lethargy increased to the point where I couldn’t even raise my hand to eat or drink. My husband had to carry me to the car because I didn’t have enough energy to walk, and he then rushed me to my local hospital emergency department. It was too hard to sit on the waiting room chair, so I had to lie on the floor. My memory of the whole experience is really muddled – I was completely disoriented,” Nicole said.

Shortly after arriving in hospital, Nicole was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Having never contracted pneumonia, she was unaware of the severity of the infection.

“I was in such a bad way, I had to have three litres of fluid injected into my system because I was so dehydrated. I ended up being admitted to hospital where I stayed bed-ridden for three days,” said Nicole.

“The nurses told me I was extremely close to being in a critical condition when I arrived at hospital.”

It took Nicole over two weeks to recover to the point where she could resume basic daily life tasks.

“I couldn’t really get out of bed at all for two weeks and was instructed to rest, take time off work and to take antibiotics. I couldn’t believe how weak I felt and how long the sickness lasted, as I usually recover quite quickly from most illnesses and I rarely take time off work.”

After experiencing the devastating effects of pneumonia, Nicole takes her health even more seriously nowadays. Given her first-hand experience of the infection, she now encourages members of her family and friends, particularly those aged 65 and above who are at heightened risk of the infection due to their age, to protect against pneumonia.

“I monitor myself a lot more carefully now, and now head straight to the doctor at the first signs of an infection. I have regular health check-ups and because I’m concerned about falling prey to pneumonia again, I take extra care with general colds and sicknesses, especially if I have a fever. Colds tend to take a lot more out of me than they used to,” Nicole said.

“I’d definitely recommend that everyone aged 65 and above, and those at high risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia, get vaccinated. It’s a horrendous infection that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

“I’d also strongly advise against going for a run when you’re feeling unwell!”

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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