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A Survivor’s Perspective on Flu

mad allen flu vaccine advocate
Posted on August 7, 2020
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The following blog post is written by Madi Allen, who survived a 93-day flu hospitalization in 2011. Read her flu story here.

In 2011, I was twelve years old and my life was like any other kid my age. What started as a weekend that was supposed to be spent with friends quickly turned into weeks long of me fighting for my life. On Friday, February 18, 2011, I was feeling the normal flu symptoms which I thought would just take a couple days to get over until I started having trouble breathing. By Monday, I walked into our local hospital and was immediately put on oxygen. I was diagnosed with double pneumonia and the breathing treatments were not helping. I was transferred to a bigger hospital in Springfield, Illinois and had to be intubated due to respiratory distress. For several hours the doctors did everything they could for me, but I was only getting worse. I was then transferred to another hospital in St. Louis, Missouri so I could be placed on life support. I was diagnosed with influenza B, necrotizing pneumonia, and MRSA. There were many ups and downs over the next several weeks but I was eventually able to walk out of the hospital after 93 days.

That summer was spent with physical therapy five days a week, occupational therapy three days a week, and speech therapy two days a week. The physical therapy was very hard because I was so weak, but thankfully my main therapist pushed me really hard and I truly believe I would never would have gotten back to sports as soon as I did if it wasn’t for her. I also had to go to the doctor’s office each week to do a weight check and I had several other doctors’ appointments each month. All of this was very exhausting for me so I never had any energy to do much else. Much of my time was also spent at home because I had to do nebulizers and vest treatments along with giving myself medicine and nutrients through a PICC line.

I worked hard and was able to return to school for my 8th-grade year. By that fall I was back to playing club soccer and that winter I was back on the basketball court. The next several years were spent getting my strength and skills back for soccer and basketball. It probably wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I was completely back to myself on the basketball court and soccer field. I graduated from high school and even went on to play soccer in college. For the last four years, I have been playing soccer for my college and I just graduated in May. My next step is finding a job and I will be helping to coach a local soccer club.

I do have lasting complications due to my hospitalization. I now have really bad asthma and lung disease which makes it a lot harder for me to run and play sports. I have a chronic cough that I will have for the rest of my life. I am also more prone to pneumonia which has and may lead to more hospitalizations. I have been in the hospital about six times since my initial hospitalization in 2011, which has made me miss out on a lot of events and time with my friends.

I don’t share my story to scare people into thinking that what has happened to me will absolutely happen to you if you get the flu. I share it so people can know that the flu can be scary and this could happen even to a healthy adolescent. I want people to know more about influenza so they can do things to prevent what happened to me from happening to them. I do not want anyone to ever have to go through what I have been through, which is why I encourage people to get their annual flu vaccine. I want people to do their research first before deciding not to get the flu vaccination.

The year I got sick I did not get vaccinated against flu. Now, whenever people tell me that they are not getting a flu vaccine, I simply ask them to read my story or any of the Families Fighting Flu stories before making the decision to not get vaccinated. I hope that our stories change their mind because I do not want my story to become theirs.

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