Flu stories

A video series about getting protected against the flu.

Flu shot best protection

Before his 49-year-old wife died of influenza last year, Mark McIlory had never considered that the flu could be deadly for fit healthy people. In this video, Mark speaks about his family’s experience. Read more

[Interview with Mark McIlroy. The video is intercut with photos of his wife Catherine and their family.]

Title: Mark McIlroy, Wife Catherine died from influenza

Mark: The reason why I think everyone should have a flu shot is because people do die from the flu. Healthy people and people with medical conditions. And my wife Catherine, she was 100 percent healthy. She was fit and she did a lot of walking and she did pilates. And she got the flu and she died.

What happened with Catherine is that she woke up on a Wednesday morning–

She woke up on a Wednesday morning and she said to me that she had a tickle in her throat. And didn’t really think much of it but within about 2 or 3 hours she was actually sitting and lying on the couch and she was getting hot and cold. But apart from that she seemed reasonably OK, we just thought it was just a cold type thing.

But on the Friday, she felt that she just had to stay in bed. And then we thought it was probably something a little bit more serious than just a cold. But on Saturday she said to me that she was going to be getting up on Saturday morning but she couldn’t, she just didn’t have any energy to get up so–

Around midday I actually rang Healthline and spoke to one of the nurses there. And they asked me to ask Catherine some questions like what the day was. Catherine was able to answer those questions. But the nurse on the Healthline thought it would be prudent to get an ambulance.

So they put her into intensive care and–

I stayed with her until about 10 or 11 o’clock on Saturday night. She was quite lucid. And we told each other that we loved each other.

They rang very early Sunday morning suggesting that I should come in. And so, went back in. And meanwhile I rung the family and then it was just a fairly short period. Her organs just started to shut down. And she was in intensive care, there was somebody always there with her in the room and monitoring her situation.

Monday morning the doctor called us for a family meeting saying that she had passed the point of no return and they would, at some stage would be turning the life support system off and she would die.

We just didn’t know that people who are healthy could die from the flu.

So it’s just very very important that everyone gets a flu jab.

Immunise to protect

More than 1.2 million Kiwis have already protected themselves against the flu by immunising. In this video, Dr Lance Jennings explains why immunisation is the best protection against seasonal influenza. Read more

[Interview with Dr Lance Jennings at his workplace. You can see other laboratory staff in the background.]

Title: Dr Lance Jennings, International Influenza Expert, Canterbury Health Laboratories

Dr Jennings: Being fit and healthy doesn’t protect you against influenza. Our best protection currently is to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine.

[Shot of a hospital nurse giving a patient the vaccine.]

Dr Jennings (voice-over): Influenza vaccine cannot give you influenza. What some people do have, at the site of injection, is redness and soreness. And quite a large number of people can have soreness at the site of the injection, which may last for up to 24 hours and then disappear.

[Back to interview.]

Dr Jennings: It’s particular important for older aged people, people over 65 years, to receive it annually, because a consequence of contracting influenza in this age group is developing pneumonia and being admitted to hospital and possibly dying.

[Still image of the influenza virus. The virus is round or jellybean-shaped, and has a sort of fringe around it.]

Dr Jennings (voice-over): Being able to recognise the onset of influenza and its symptoms, and preferably going home and taking yourself away from other people so that you limit the spread of the virus from person-to-person. This of course isn’t always possible because it’s difficult to recognise the onset of symptoms.

[Shot showing a man sneezing, and the droplets from the sneeze getting caught on a piece of clear glass. This zooms in to show an animation of the individual viruses in the dropments. The viruses look a bit like pom-poms. The video zooms in again to show the virus in more detail. It is black in the centre, with a wriggly green ‘fringe’.]

Dr Jennings (voice-over): But also if we develop a cough we can use respiratory hygiene methods of covering coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from other people who haven’t got respiratory symptoms as much as possible.

[Back to interview.]

Dr Jennings: And of course, washing our hands after we’ve blown our noses to limit the virus getting onto our hands and being spread to other people.

[Shot of a health worker in a laboratory, sitting in front of a fume cabinet. The workspace behind glass and has a caution sign on it. She is doing something with a set of samples.]

Dr Jennings (voice-over): The first thing we can do of course is go home, and stay at home until we’re feeling better, to limit the spread of this virus into the school room or to our colleagues. Cover coughs and sneezes. Use tissues to trap these respiratory secretions. And wash your hands afterwards, to limit the spread of the viruses to other people.

[Back to interview.]

Dr Jennings: So the important thing is to be aware of media reports when influenza is circulating in our communities during the winter months, and if you contract symptoms of influenza that you’re concerned about, talk to your general practitioner.

Don’t miss out on flu shot

Our third video features Courtney Sit, whose experience with flu has convinced her of the importance of getting an annual influenza immunisation. Read more

[Interview with Courtney, a young woman in her 20s.]

Title: Courtney Sit, Auckland inflenza sufferer

I had the flu around March of this year, so that’s 2013. I was kind of feeling a bit under the weather, and I woke up every day for about 2 weeks with a migraine, which didn’t go away with the painkillers. And then I decided after about 4 days of symptoms, it seemed to kind of be getting worse, so I decided to go to the doctor. And that was when she told me, oh, you have the flu.

And she knew it straight away. She could see that I was sweating, but my body temperature was normal, the mild symptoms of the headache in the morning, and still no appetite. So the no appetite lasted for about 20 days. Not eating that much, or eating very little, and just taking a spoonful of yoghurt, as per the doctor’s orders, so that I could take the medicine.

Before I got sick with the flu this year, I had never had a flu vaccination. Partly, because I used to think that it was quite expensive, and that it was a yearly thing. And I’d probably say that given the price, that it’s within a reasonable price range, or if they can get it from work, to not turn it down. Given that I’ve gone through it first-hand, I’d say I would probably try to get it as much as I can.

I think the hardest thing about having the flu is that you can’t really do much except rest. So I was taking painkillers and sometimes that would or would not alleviate the pain. Most of the time, it wouldn’t, actually, it would just kind of dull the pain. And there was not much else I could do except just feel sorry for myself, and sleep all the time.

I think, really having ... when I realised that I had developed wheezing as a result of the flu, that really scared me. I actually asked my doctor, if she gave me an inhaler, if I was going to become asthmatic. She goes no, it’s fine, it’s just temporary.

When I started to feel the difference was when I woke up with no migraine. That was the biggest change. You know, being able to lift up your head ... I was so worried that it was never going to go away, that I would wake up and feel that weight in my head all day. So I knew, I knew that it was all over when I woke up that day and it didn’t come back ever again. And that was a good day. A good day, yeah [laughs].

Immunisation protects everyone

In this video, the team at the Christchurch Hospital emergency department explain why fit and healthy people need the flu vaccine too. Read more

[The video starts with a shot of the hospital, and of the sign for Emergency and Acute Admissions.]

[Interview with Angela, intercut with shots of Angela talking to staff in the hospital back offices.]

Title: Dr Angela Pitchford, Clinical Director, Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department.

Angela: I think when a person has a vaccination themselves, they’re protecting many people. They’re protecting themselves, of course. They protect their family, their coworkers. If they have a vaccination and don’t get the flu then they’re less likely to be a source of infection for other people.

Traditionally, we know that the elderly and the very young are vulnerable to influenza. We also know from recent epidemics that pregnant women are vulnerable as well.

Having said that though, age is no barrier to getting pneumonia. And we’ve seen cases of influenza in the 20- and 30-year-old age group where they develop secondary infections such as pneumonia. Being healthy or fit is no barrier at all.

[Interview with Deb, intercut with shots of staff at work.]

Title: Deb Latimer, Nurse Vaccinator, Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department.

Deb: In regards to people who are fairly fit and well, a lot of people think that they then don’t need the flu vax because of that. But it’s very important that we get as many people vaccinated as possible because it does then help prevent most people who aren’t as healthy from getting the flu.

I have actually had the flu in the past, about 2 years ago. And I have to say I was the sickest I’ve ever been. I was hallucinating, very unwell, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

[Deb is talking to a patient about getting the flu vaccination, and discussing the consent form with him.]

Deb (voiceover): In regards to helping prevent getting the flu or keeping yourself well, apart from getting the vaccination, it’s important that if you are feeling unwell and think you have the flu that you perhaps see your GP first. But ring them first to tell them that you may possibly have the flu. Stay at home, keep yourself warm, lots of fluids, and look after yourself.

[Deb gives the patient his injection.]

Deb (voiceover): So again I just want to say just how important it is that people get the flu vaccination especially for this winter.

[Back to interview.]

Deb: Personal experience – it does take a lot of time and nursing care with patients who do come in with flu. It does gridlock us in the department in that we have too many patients, no beds, and people come in who don’t have the flu, come in with various other illnesses, have to be admitted, and then they’re at risk of catching the flu as well.

Protect your family from flu

In this video, the Ten Haaf family from Waimana explain why they made the decision to immunise every year. Read more

[Dianne watches her daughter Tiffany play with a wooden puzzle.]

Title: Dianne & Wouter Ten Haaf, with daughter Tiffany. Supporters of influenza vaccinations for families.

[Interview with the family, intercut with shots of Tiffany in the backyard, blowing bubbles and climbing trees.]

Dianne: Being sick means being off work and you can’t afford being off sick, and me being a stay-at-home mum you can’t cope with being sick and looking after two little ones. I just find it’s really hard.

Wouter: I missed the flu vaccination once and as luck would have it that year I got very sick and it took me a long time to get back on my feet again. I also worked on commission at that stage and that affected our income severely because I was unable to work.

So from there on every single year, and it’s been fourteen years since, I’ve never had the flu thanks to the flu vaccination.

Our GP encouraged us to do the flu vaccinations for our children. We weren’t sure whether to do it or not and after consulting with him we were recommended and advised that it’s the best thing to do. And we just went ahead and did it and we’re very glad that we did it because neither of the two has been ill with the flu since birth.

[Shot of Tiffany showing the interviewer where she had her flu injection.]

Tiffany: It’s here.

Interviewer: Did it hurt?

Tiffany: Nope.

Interviewer: Does it hurt now?

Tiffany: Y– Nope. [She shakes her head and smiles.]

[Back to the interview, again intercut with shots of Tiffany playing in the backyard.]

Dianne: Tiffany is asthmatic, or she was diagnosed being asthmatic before, so we just felt it’s really important for her to get her flu vaccination because of that. Because she starts getting coughing while having flu and a lot of sleepless nights for the whole family not just for her. So yes, that would be one of the reasons.

Wouter: And that’s why we do, for our children, we want to give them the best chance of a healthy upbringing. So we will go, whether we have to pay for it or not, for every single vaccination that we can do for them.

Flu protection in pregnancy

In this video Ali Just, an intensive care nurse and mum, tells us why she had the influenza immunisation while pregnant with her second child Caitlin. Read more

[The video shows Ali, who is pregnant, playing with her toddler Sam, stacking blocks.]

Sam: There, there!

Ali: It goes there, how about that one?

Sam: This one.

Title: Ali Just, with son Sam. Mother-to-be and Intensive Care Nurse, Christchurch Hospital.

[Interview with Ali, intercut with footage of her and her son playing.]

Ali: The young people I’ve seen that’ve had the flu have got very very sick. And quite surprisingly you always think if you’re young you’ll get the flu and you’ll be fine within a day or two. But I’ve looked after people that have been in ICU for 6 weeks and they were very young and almost died. And also looked after a pregnant lady who was sick.

I got the flu vaccination while I was pregnant for two main reasons. One is because I don’'t want to be sick looking after a new baby, and also to protect my child. When they’re newborn they’re quite vulnerable to everything that’s out there. And I couldn’t I couldn’t bear looking after a child that was sick with ... knowing I could have done something to prevent it.

[Sam comes over during the interview to ask her about some pegs, which he gives her.]

Ali: David, my husband, was very supportive of me getting Sam vaccinated for the flu. I thought about not getting him vaccinated because it would hurt. And I said to my husband that maybe we wouldn’t vaccinate him against the flu. And he’s like, you’re being silly, you’ve got him vaccinated against everything else, of course you’re taking him and booking him in. I was like, yes. So we took him and booked him in, and got him sorted.

[Ali talking to her son.]

Ali: You gonna come and give bubba a kiss? [Touching her stomach] Say hello bubba? [Sam comes over for a cuddle.]

[Back to the interview.]

Ali: One thing that made me strongly get flu vac while I was pregnant was I helped care for a lady who was about my age and she was quite pregnant, almost due to have her baby, and she was very very sick. She almost died. She was with us for quite a few weeks. And just watching her and what her husband was going through, and it was their first baby and it was meant to be an exciting time. She almost died.

Her husband was visiting her every day worried about the baby and her. And then when she finally delivered her baby as an emergency, he was left with this beautiful newborn and a wife who was still terribly sick and was going to take months to recover. And I just thought, I don’t want that to ever be me or my husband.

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