The awful lesson of influenza’s bite

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I’VE learnt my lesson, well and truly: don’t delay, don’t equivocate – get your flu shots early – well before winter sets in.

Of course, I had all sorts of excuses; I hate injections and there were always other things to do. In the end, my husband and our children had their flu shots, but not me; I had already come down with a bad case of flu!

It started with a few sniffles, but rapidly got worse. Within a few days, I had a persistent high fever and a bad cough. I was coughing up stuff that was so biologically active that it bubbled. Worse still, I was coughing up blood so, I knew I needed quickly to get to a doctor.

I couldn’t get an appointment with our regular GP, so my husband and I headed over to a new GP super clinic. Now, these facilities are better than nothing, but production-line medicine is what they deliver. A lengthy wait was followed by a cursory examination and the doctor’s advice: “You’ve got flu, we’ve all had it, you’ll get over it”.

Only after I told the doctor that I’d been coughing blood did he reluctantly prescribe an antibiotic.

A few days later, feeling much worse, I went to our regular GP who prescribed a much stronger antibiotic and advised that I return promptly if things didn’t improve quickly.

Too late. By the next morning I couldn’t eat or drink without immediately vomiting. Knowing I was really sick, we headed to Canberra Hospital.

Six hours later, I had been triaged out of the system and sent home with a prescription for anti-nausea pills. Casualty was busy, but it was surprising to observe the number of quite sick people, including families with obviously sick children, who gave up waiting for treatment and headed home rather than keep sitting in the cold and drafty waiting room.

Apparently, I just wasn’t sick enough to merit any further treatment. Yet within little more than 24 hours I was back. By this time, severely dehydrated with seriously low blood pressure – that, plus the severe chest pains that accompanied a full-blown case of pneumonia, finally got me through the triage process and into a hospital bed.

Diagnosed with Influenza A and severe pneumonia I was given oxygen, put on an intravenous drip and pumped full of high-grade antibiotics. This did the trick and after some days I returned home, where I’m still recovering.

I found the Canberra Hospital staff – doctors and nurses – highly attentive and professional. However, once my appetite returned, I found the hospital food an utter disgrace – barely edible at best.

On one occasion an order for a vegetarian dish (usually the safest pick) resulted in the delivery of what appeared to be regurgitated pork accompanied by something that might have been bits of pineapple.

Maybe our Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher could live on hospital food for a week and see whether some improvement is in order.

All in all this wasn’t an experience I would care to repeat. So my advice is don’t delay – go early and get that flu shot.

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