Flu protection in pregnancy: video

Working as a Christchurch Hospital intensive care nurse, Ali Just has too often seen the severe impact that influenza can have on young and old people alike.

[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.

At the time of being interviewed for this story Ali was pregnant with her second child and had had no hesitation in having an influenza vaccination to protect herself and provide some immunity for her baby.

‘The person that most influenced me in having a flu vaccination was a lady I helped care for, who was about my age. She was quite pregnant, almost due to have her baby and she was very very sick with complications from the flu. She almost died,’ she says.

‘Just watching her and what her husband was going through…. When she finally delivered her baby as an emergency, he had a beautiful newborn but a wife who was terribly sick and still had months to recover. I thought I don’t want that to ever be me or my husband.’

Prior to becoming pregnant, Ali had been having an annual influenza vaccination for many years to ensure that in the winter she could continue to visit her grandparents, who both have lung disease. ‘They have both been unwell since their fifties and always have a flu shot ever year,’ she says.

‘I have always been careful to have my vaccinations before I hang out with them in the winter to make sure I’m not passing anything on. It’s the same way that people like me who work in hospitals have to think about the patients they are seeing everyday. Like my grandparents, they are already unwell and may not be able to survive having the flu as well. ‘

To make sure their family is as well protected from the flu as possible, Ali’s husband David and two year-old son Sam have also had their influenza vaccinations.

‘It’s going to be hard enough looking after a newborn and a toddler let alone if one of us gets a serious bout of the flu. I also couldn’t bear looking after a child that was sick knowing that I could have done something to prevent it,’ Ali says.

While it was easy deciding to have her own vaccination, she says it was a harder choice to make for Sam as she didn’t want him to be upset by the injection. David however encouraged her do it. ‘He said you’ve got him vaccinated against everything else, of course you need to book him in.’

While most people think of influenza as something that only seriously affects older people, Ali says she has seen a number of young people in intensive care who have been very sick with the flu. ‘People tend to think that if you get the flu you’ll be fine in a day or two. I’ve looked after people that have been in ICU for six weeks and have been very young and almost died. It’s made me very aware that just being young doesn’t protect you from the flu.’

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