A Warwickshire mum in her 30's is asking us all to think about having the flu jab his winter after she nearly died from the virus.
Last Christmas, Louise Lyle of Southam, was in a medically-induced coma separated from her friends and family. Louise’s illness put her in Warwick Hospital for two months, five weeks of which were spent in Intensive Care, where she was ventilated on a life support machine, fed by tubes and put on dialysis after her kidneys failed. The Flu virus had gone off like a bomb in her body and was attacking all of Louise’s major organs.
Louise, who finally got to return home to her family in February this year is slowly on her way to making what she hopes will be a full recovery. She said: "It was scary how quickly I went from having what I thought was just a cold to becoming extremely poorly. My symptoms started out as those typical of a cold – sore head, throat, aches and pains but then I developed a really nasty cough and went rapidly downhill from there. Within a week my symptoms had gone from moderate to severe. I was very lethargic and withdrawn and I could feel my heart racing in my chest even when I was resting. I knew that my health was deteriorating and that I needed help."
Staff at Warwick Hospital worked tirelessly to get Louise’s condition under control and provide support to her family throughout the extremely upsetting and difficult time yet Louise’s two young daughters, her husband, parents and sister had to spend Christmas and New Year without her.
Louise continued: “My husband spent almost all day, every day at my hospital bedside whilst my parents and sister came and stayed with our daughters. It must have been terrifying for them to see me covered in wires and tubes and to be told to fear the worst when just weeks before I had been perfectly fit and healthy, running around after the girls, working full time and getting ready for Christmas.”
Early in the new year, just as Louise became strong enough to move from intensive care to a general ward to continue her recovery, Doctors feared there was damage to her heart and sent her to University Hospital in Coventry for specialised care where she spent a further three weeks in the Coronary Care Unit undergoing tests.
Doctors managed to stabilise Louise’s condition and following months of treatment, tests and observation, she was finally able to return home.
Louise said: "As an otherwise fit and healthy young person, I hadn’t had a flu jab. It was not something that I thought applied to me. This year I made sure that my family and I have all been vaccinated against seasonal flu. I really would urge anyone who is offered the vaccination by their GP to accept it and those who aren’t in an at-risk group to get their vaccination from a pharmacist. Last year, it was young and middle-aged people like me who were most seriously affected by flu and like I did, they probably think they won’t be affected.
“ feel that after surviving such a terrible illness, that is preventable and often not taken seriously enough, I have a role to play in encouraging others to have their flu vaccination so they don’t have to go through what my family and I went through.
If I had had the flu vaccination this time last year, my life today would be very different. I am slowly recovering but I still have some way to go. I am gradually building up my strength and even getting back into work. I have had extensive physiotherapy and am still having respiratory physiotherapy as I now have restricted lung function. I endure horrendous fatigue and everyday tasks can still be difficult but I am lucky to even be here considering how ill I was.
The staff at Warwick Hospital and University Hospital in Coventry were amazing. I can’t thank them enough. They saved my life. They did everything they could for me, bringing me back from the brink and I’m so grateful to them. My GP has been amazing too, supporting me and my family every step of the way on my road to recovery.
It is so important to protect yourself and others by being vaccinated. It’s quick, doesn’t hurt, can’t make you ill and can save your life.
I really am grateful to be alive and am determined to have a lovely Christmas with my family and friends this year to make up for the one we lost last year."
Bronwen Spraggett, Immunisation Coordinator at NHS Warwickshire, said: "Flu can be deadly and we encourage everyone in an at-risk group to be vaccinated. People at-risk include anyone with a long-term condition like asthma, diabetes or a suppressed immune system, people aged 65 and over and all pregnant women.
If you have any questions about flu or the vaccination, contact your GP surgery or local pharmacist."
Anyone suffering with flu should seek advice from their GP in the first instance. For those that become seriously ill, their GP will advise on the best and most appropriate course of treatment.