Retired stockbroker, father-to-four, grandfather-to-five and keen fisherman, Peter, 71, Melbourne, has remarkably, survived five episodes of the often fatal infection, pneumonia. The ex-smoker’s most recent hospital admission was on September 26, 2014, where he stayed for a month.

Peter is clinically at-risk of contracting pneumonia. Following 25 years of “heavy smoking which caused significant damage to the lungs”, Peter quit on “9/9/1990”. At 45 years of age, during his first pneumonia admission to hospital, he was subsequently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Given his first-hand experience with pneumonia, Peter now exercises regularly and eats well, and is armed with a preventative action plan, to help identify and treat the first symptoms of the debilitating infection. He is also acutely aware of his heightened risk of infection, particularly due to his age (65+), chronic disease and waning immunity.

This is Peter’s story.

In September, 2012, Peter, then 67, was struggling to breathe. He had a severe cough, shortness of breath and a high temperature for a few days, so chose to seek professional advice. After listening to his lungs, and suspecting pneumonia, his local doctor promptly referred him to Respiratory and Sleep Disorders Physician,    Dr Michelle Caldecott, Melbourne, for further examination. He was subsequently diagnosed with a bacterial strain of pneumonia, placed on an intravenous regimen in hospital, and further treated with steroidal medications.

“My initial diagnosis of pneumonia came completely out of left field. One minute I felt fine, and the next, I was experiencing difficulty breathing when walking, particularly up and down hills,” said Peter.

“I have since been hospitalised on five occasions with pneumonia – my most recent hospital admission was 18 months ago, during which I spent 30 long days in hospital.

“When the doctors are really concerned about your oxygen levels, that you end up hospitalised for 30 days, you soon realise just how life-threatening the infection is,” Peter said.

After his most recent diagnosis of pneumonia, during which he was “short of breath, hot and sweaty and feverish,” Peter was referred to an Austin Hospital program, run in conjunction with the University of Melbourne’s physiotherapy department, for which he has since met with multiple specialists from various disciplines, and participated in exercise therapy for those living with lung conditions.

“This program has proven hugely beneficial to me. It has allowed me to re-build my strength, and to date, has kept me out of hospital,” said Peter.

Nowadays, Peter continues to exercise and eat well, to ensure he is well protected against contracting pneumonia.

“Dr Caldecott and my GP have also created an action plan for me, which features the treatments that I require, should I develop symptoms of pneumonia. So all I have to do is to visit my GP for a diagnosis and then visit the pharmacy to collect my medicines, and my treatment commences immediately,” Peter said.

Since recovering from his last episode of pneumonia, Peter has reportedly, been in relatively “good health, apart from experiencing several hernias.”

“I’ve had a few hernias since my last episode of pneumonia. Although I can’t directly attribute the hernias to pneumonia, the coughing associated with the often fatal infection can’t prove overly helpful in warding off the hernias,” said Peter.

“The fact is, each pneumonia episode that I experience causes scarring, confirmed by X-rays and CT-scans, and my general respiratory condition is the result of all of that damage to the lung. The infection definitely reduces my capacity to breathe properly, which limits the amount of physical activity I can do.”

Given his first-hand experience with pneumonia, Peter is acutely aware that he is at heightened risk of the infection, particularly due to his age (65+) and waning immunity.

He has therefore, recently had a flu shot, and has been vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia.

Peter urges all Australians aged 65 and over, who are otherwise well, along with those who are immunocompromised, to speak to their doctor about pneumococcal vaccination today.

“I would absolutely urge anyone aged 65 and above, or those who have experienced chronic lung conditions, including pneumonia, to ask their doctor today about the pneumococcal vaccine.

“Protection against this often fatal infection for those who qualify for vaccination, is key to living a long, healthy and active life,” Peter said.