What I really would love to let people know is that you can go from feeling ‘a little under the weather’ to Intensive Care in the blink of an eye. I get my flu shot every year. It’s not perfect but I’ll gladly take the protection it offers. In 2012, I learned about what it means to fight for my life and my baby.
Flu complication confirmed
I was 28 weeks pregnant and was being watched carefully by a high-risk OB. I had been battling a cough for some time. I came home from work one evening worried I might have a fever. I quickly put my daughter, aged two, to bed and took some Tylenol before going to bed myself. By midnight I had severe chest pain and realized I needed to get to the hospital. It happened that my OB was on call that night. He took a chest x-ray, and confirmed that I had pneumonia. I was sent home with antibiotics.
By morning my fever was back. This time, when I went to the hospital, they admitted me. My breathing was labored and my oxygen saturation levels kept dropping. Finally, I was sent from the obstetrics ward to intensive care. I spent 5 days there on a CPAP ventilator with fluid building up outside my lung. They decided to put a tube into my chest to drain the fluid. It hurt like nothing I have ever experienced (including child birth!). I didn’t want them to increase the morphine because I was scared of what would happen to my baby. They removed about 1.5 liters of fluid from my lungs before I couldn’t take the pain anymore and they removed the tube. I spent another 5 days back on the Ob-Gyn ward until I was well enough to be discharged.
I spent 10 days in the hospital, but my success is that I walked out and my daughter and husband–both vaccinated–never got sick. Most important to our happy ending, I delivered a healthy full-term baby boy at 37 weeks.
Amanda’s message about flu and flu shots
People will say that I had the flu shot but still got sick anyway. That’s true. But while getting a vaccine makes it less likely that you’ll get an illness, it also makes it more likely to survive if you manage to get sick anyway. If you refused to do anything unless it was guaranteed to work perfectly every time, you’d never do anything at all.
I am convinced that the flu shot saved my son’s life and mine too. If I had been much sicker, I probably wouldn’t have made it, and my son might have had lifelong complications from being oxygen deprived in utero, or having to be delivered early. I was already sick enough that hospital staff had end-of-life discussions with my husband and discussed whether or when to give me a c-section in an attempt to save my son – and at only 28 weeks, that’s a pretty big gamble. I can appreciate that needles can be frightening. But I can promise you, a flu shot hurts way less than a chest tube!!! And there truly is no down side.
Here’s a picture of me and my son, age 3, dressed like Captain America to get his flu vaccine. (Seriously, you try taking a selfie, while holding a wriggly kid on your lap with something stuck up his nose.) You can read more about my son’s story in my book: Joy at the End of the Rainbow: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Loss. (photo credits: Maryl Cook)
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