Hairdresser and mother-to-two adult children, Carolyn, 55, Sydney, was bedridden with pneumonia while pregnant Carolyn 55, Sydneywith her second child at the age of 32.

Plagued by severe headaches, non-stop coughing fits and a temperature of 39 degrees Celsius, Carolyn visited her local GP on three occasions throughout one week for professional advice, and eventually returned the following week to have some blood tests.

Then exhausted, and in severe pain from her mystery infection, Carolyn extracted herself from bed to undergo some blood tests, which she had lying down, due to being crippled by pain.

Later that day, Carolyn was diagnosed with pneumonia.

This is her story.

“I couldn’t breathe and I had no energy, because I couldn’t get air into my lungs,” Carolyn said.

“I had severe headaches and general aches and pains throughout my body. I felt lethargic and was in pain from coughing constantly. There were points at which I felt like I was going to die.”

The working hairdresser, then eight weeks pregnant with her second child, mistakenly assumed she had contracted a virus, or was just worn out by her pregnancy. So she chose to take a break from work to get some rest.

“I remember thinking, I’ll take a break and sleep it off,” said Carolyn.

“I spent about a week in bed before I went to see my doctor, incorrectly believing that I would get better tomorrow. But my infection got so bad, that I knew there was something seriously wrong.”

Doubled-over in pain, Carolyn first visited her local GP to detail her symptoms, on the Monday. The GP listened to Carolyn, but offered no explanation of what she may be experiencing, and sent her home. Two days later, feeling much worse, Carolyn re-visited her GP, but had the same experience again

On her third visit to the GP, on the Sunday evening, she was advised that it was too late in the day to undergo any blood tests, so should go home and rest, and return in the morning for tests.

Carolyn grew increasingly unwell. Her “head continued to throb”, she was unable to control her coughing, she had a raging fever of 39 degrees celcius, and was concerned about the welfare of her unborn child, given she was in the first trimester of her pregnancy.

The following morning she was in so much pain from the “mystery illness”, that she thought she was going to die.

After forcing herself out of bed to visit the GP and undergo some blood tests, she fielded a call from her husband, concerned about Carolyn’s welfare. She was in so much pain, she asked him to come home.

On his way home, Carolyn’s husband dropped by the GP clinic to reinforce the severity of his wife’s condition, and that he would soon return with her to collect the blood test results.

“When my husband took me back to the GP clinic, I was admitted immediately, because I was so ill,” said Carolyn.

“Armed with the results of my blood tests, my GP confirmed I had contracted pneumonia.”

Carolyn was subsequently hospitalised for the ensuing seven days to treat the potentially life-threatening infection.

“What I was most frightened about at the time was losing weight,” Carolyn said.

“Because I was pregnant at the time, there was no need for me to lose weight. But I was so sick, that I shed a lot of weight, while also battling a high temperature throughout the ordeal.”

Carolyn eventually returned home from hospital, and spent the following week resting and recovering.

Contracting pneumonia took a significant financial toll on Carolyn and her family at the time. Initially, she was forced to take close to three weeks off work. Furthermore, in order to contain any potential spread of the infection to her customers and friends post- recovery, many of whom had children at the time, she chose to work from home, and in fact, never returned to her salon.

“I didn’t go back to work after that, even though I had worked right up to that point.

“I worked from home after contracting pneumonia, and continue to do so today,” said Carolyn.

“I was aware of the severity of pneumonia, because I often spoke to my clients about their elderly parents who too, had experienced the infection.

“But when I contracted the infection myself, I soon learned just how devastating it can be. There were certain points at which I honestly thought I was going to die,” Carolyn said.

Although Carolyn must wait 10 years before qualifying for the free pneumococcal vaccination through the Government’s National Immunisation Program (NIP) based on age as a risk factor, she says she will certainly consider it then.

“I get vaccinated against flu, and when I turn 65 and become eligible to receive the free pneumococcal vaccine, I will absolutely consider it, to protect me against further infection from this potentially life-threatening infection,” Carolyn said.