In the wake of Pneumonia Week, Streatham resident Cheryl French knows firsthand how valuable the pneumococcal vaccine is.
Over the past six years, Mrs French, a retired mother of two, who has been diagnosed with stage three emphysema, has experienced multiple spells of pneumonia of varying degrees, one leaving her in hospital for five days.
Mrs French said she had never given a thought to pneumonia before her own experiences.
“Although you may have heard about pneumonia in theory, you don’t tend to give it any thought until you actually experience it,” Mrs French said.
She said when she first moved out to Streatham, she had a flare up of pneumonia that put her in bed for three days. With the worst bout, which saw Mrs French rushed to hospital in an ambulance, she said she experienced “sharp and severe chest pain”, which made it difficult to breathe, after finishing a cup of tea.
“When I stood up, I couldn’t move because my body felt like it was in a vice,” Mrs French said.
“This episode was so much more severe than my previous episodes of pneumonia. The pain was horrible; I couldn’t breathe. The doctors diagnosed me with pneumonia straight away, because it literally hit me like a punch. Fortunately, they caught the infection early, because it could have developed into something much worse.”
At hospital, Mrs French was given medicine and antibiotics to help her breathe.
Mrs French said she assumed having emphysema made her more prone to contracting pneumonia and it has sometimes been difficult to distinguish between its symptoms and those of pneumonia.
There is a vaccination for the infection which Mrs French said she’s all for after her experience with it.
“I had the shot which lasts for three years and then you get a flu shot every year,” Mrs French said.
“It’s people’s choice, I just think why would you put people at risk?”
The National Immunisation Program’s Pneumococcal vaccination is available to all Australians who are 65 or older and Indigenous Australians who are 50 or older, those who have certain medical conditions, and infants up to 12 months of age.
For more information about the vaccine and Pneumonia Awareness Week, visit http://lungfoundation.com.au/events/pneumonia-awareness-week-4/