Tweed mum Allison Eastman has suffered three bouts of pneumonia in 11 months.
Tweed mum Allison Eastman has suffered three bouts of pneumonia in 11 months. Contributed

Three bouts of pneumonia in 11 months for Tweed mum

TWEED mother of three Allison Eastman is not quite breathing easy yet, but she is finally on the mend after enduring three episodes of a rare and potentially fatal form of pneumonia in the past 11 months.

After such an ordeal, even the slightest sigh of relief is appreciated.

Ms Eastman, who ironically works as a respiratory clinical nurse specialist, contracted atypical bacterial pneumonia in June last year and was placed on four different types of antibiotics to recover.

"The scariest part of this first episode of pneumonia was the fact that I just couldn't breathe," she said.

"My body was going into shut-down mode. I had a fever, headaches, my body was fatigued, and I had lost my appetite.

"I couldn't get out of bed, but I knew that if I didn't see the doctor that day, I would have died.

"I went to my doctor, who put me on oxygen and a nebuliser to open up my airways, but I knew there was something more sinister at play.

"I then went to hospital, and was sent home, armed with some antibiotics."

It took six weeks before she recovered from the severe infection. It returned two months later.

Again, she went to her GP and was sent home with a round of antibiotics and given a fortnight off work to recover.

Ms Eastman's third bout of pneumonia began just five weeks ago in April, when she contracted the flu which developed into the more serious infection.

She is finally back at work after weeks of bed rest and wants to spread the word about pneumococcal vaccination.

"Having pneumonia feels like you are completely winded, all of the time," she said.

Ms Eastman was vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia due to her line of work, but her vaccination did not protect her against this rarer strain.

However, she urged all people on steroidal medication to be vaccinated against the infection, due to their waning immunity, along with those aged 65 and over who were at risk of infection due to their age.

"I've been surprised by the number of people who have been contracting pneumonia, and that's why I recommend protection against the often fatal lung infection for those age 65-plus and the immuno-compromised," she said.

"Given my first-hand experience with pneumonia, I now understand how difficult it is for patients living with lung disease, who struggle to breathe every day."

Even now, Ms Eastman has trouble with shallow breathing.

Her call coincides with Pneumonia Awareness Week and the release of Lung Foundation research revealing many Australian adults underestimate the need to vaccinate because two-thirds believe themselves to be "younger and fitter" than their parents at the same age.

Respiratory physician and Lung Foundation Australia National Council member Associate Professor Lucy Morgan said such confidence was misplaced.

"They take good care of themselves, and are dedicated to 'adding years to life', by exercising and eating well, but don't realise that developing pneumococcal pneumonia could change all of that," Assoc Prof Morgan said.

"The stark reality is, all adults aged 65 and over are at increased risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia due to their age alone, and pneumococcal vaccination can 'add life to years'," she said.

About 93% of Australian children receive the pneumococcal vaccination compared to less than half of vulnerable seniors.

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