During his 15-year-long tenure as a medical laboratory assistant in Brisbane, Glenn was required to receive an annual flu shot to help ward off potential respiratory infections. During this period, and despite his 40-year-long smoking habit, Glenn showed no cause for concern with regard to contracting any form of lung disease.
In early 2001 however, the then 61 year old experienced two heart attacks within the same hour. Despite the use of an anticoagulant (blood thinner) to prevent the formation of blood clots during surgery, Glenn’s lungs began to bleed, which soon led to a diagnosis of a rare and severe episode of pneumonia. Glenn was left literally, “hanging on for dear life.”
After a week of hospitalisation, Glenn spent the ensuing three months mounting a recovery from his infection, before electing to retire at the age of 62, and relocate to his birthplace, Tasmania.
Post- pneumonia infection, Glenn was continuously plagued by breathlessness, and in 2012, was diagnosed with the chronic lung disease, emphysema.
This is Glenn’s story.
“I was born in Tasmania and grew up working on my family’s property, where I was exposed to a lot of dust, dirt and the chemical used as a pesticide, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), which probably kick-started my lung problems,” said Glenn.
In 1988, Glenn, together with his wife and two children, relocated from Launceston to Brisbane, where he assumed a new role as a medical laboratory assistant.
“As part of my job, I was required to have an annual flu shot. I never imagined at the time, that I was susceptible to any of the lung illnesses I have since developed.
“In early 2001, I had two heart attacks within the same day. I was rushed by ambulance to hospital, where I was placed on an anticoagulant to thin my blood, and that’s essentially what caused my pneumococcal pneumonia,” Glenn said.
The blood thinners used to reduce Glenn’s blood clot that was causing his heart attacks, reportedly back-fired, causing his lungs to bleed, which led to the onset of pneumonia.
“I started to bleed from my mouth, and also in my lungs. I was informed it was an extremely rare case, and that the doctors hadn’t experienced anything like it before,” said Glenn.
“My pneumonia was at its peak when I was in hospital, and lasted about three-to-four days.
“My lungs have never been the same,” Glenn said.
Three months later, Glenn returned to work. However, within a couple of months, he decided he was no longer fit enough to work, and in 2002, chose to retire and relocate to Tasmania with his wife.
“I used to be a very active fella, always riding my bike and camping. But now my lungs can’t handle that kind of pressure,” said Glenn.
After returning home to Tasmania, Glenn tried hard to pursue his favourite activities – gardening and wood cutting – but soon realised his health was in continuing decline.
“There’s a lot of forest back-burning that’s done just before winter in Tasmania. Apparently the air pollution from this back-burning is equal to China’s. I find this time of year extremely hard on my lungs,” Glenn said.
Growing increasingly breathless, Glenn visited his doctor in 2012, and was subsequently diagnosed with emphysema.
Since turning 65, Glenn has had a flu shot every year to ward off further respiratory infections.
“I have also received my free pneumococcal vaccinations to protect against infection.
“In fact, my latest pneumococcal vaccination was on April 20, 2016,” said Glenn.
“I encourage everyone at risk of infection, whether due to age or ill health, to do the same.
“Vaccination is such a simple thing, as opposed to spending a long time in hospital, or six foot under,” Glenn said.