In 2012, while completing her final year of study to become an Occupational Therapist at Plymouth University, UK, Elizabeth, then 28, contracted Swine flu, which soon developed into a severe episode of pneumonia. Lizzy, 32, Coffs Harbour

Elizabeth became unwell after attending a New Year’s Eve party, and spent the first week of January, 2012, coughing severely and vomiting. By the end of that week, she was diagnosed with Swine flu, and directed to relocate to her family home, under the care of her parents. Six days later, complaining of excruciating back pain, Elizabeth’s parents rushed her to hospital for an emergency X-ray, which revealed pneumococcal pneumonia in her lungs.

She was subsequently hospitalised for a week, during which she lost all hearing in her left ear. Elizabeth continued her recovery over the next six months, before relocating to Australia in July, 2012.

This is Elizabeth’s story.

“I had no idea how severe and life-threatening my illness was at the time,” said Elizabeth.

Following a New Year’s Eve party, Elizabeth fell extremely ill. She was coughing uncontrollably, and was unable to eat for the first week of January, 2012.

After spending a week in agony, she visited her local doctor, who diagnosed her with Swine flu.

Elizabeth’s doctor suggested that she either attend hospital for close monitoring, or relocate home with her parents, who could nurse her to recovery.

“I chose to move in with my parents, who too, were unaware of just how sick I was at the time,” Elizabeth said.

“By the end of my first week back home, I woke up at night, coughing uncontrollably and with extreme back pain. I knew something was wrong.”

Elizabeth was subsequently rushed to hospital, where they conducted an emergency X-ray of her back and identified pneumococcal pneumonia.

“I was in hospital for about a week, during which my family visited me every day.

“I was unaware of the seriousness of pneumonia, and when I lost my ability to hear in my left ear in hospital, I mistakenly assumed it was just my sinuses.

“It wasn’t until my release from hospital, that one of my mum’s colleagues informed her that this was a serious, and potentially permanent side-effect of pneumonia, for which I required urgent treatment,” said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth spent the ensuing month recovering at her parents’ home, unable to work or attend university.

“I not only experienced physical problems with my pneumonia, but the infection also compromised my social life, and forced me to work extra hard to complete my university studies post- infection.”

The infection rendered Elizabeth physically weak, and completely drained.

“When I returned to the gym, my fitness had declined massively, I had lost significant lung capacity, and my loss of hearing was really noticeable.

“When I went out shopping or to public places, I found it quite scary, because I couldn’t hear well, which made me feel very vulnerable,” Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth mounted a full recovery from pneumonia six months post- diagnosis, and in 2012, relocated from the UK to Australia, to start a new life on foreign shores.

“Up until recently, I was unaware that a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination even existed.

“Given my first-hand experience of pneumonia, which completely wiped me out for half a year, I will definitely be vaccinating against pneumococcal pneumonia when I become old enough to qualify for the vaccine (age 65+), or develop any other chronic illness, to reduce my risk of contracting the often fatal lung infection. Because, prevention is better than cure.”