Why get a flu shot? Well, for a person with cystic fibrosis, I can give you lots of reasons. To start, if you care about a person with CF or if you have CF, you should know that getting the flu can be a tough blow, possibly life-threatening.
In December 2015, after completing my last business trip for the year, I flew home from New York City to meet my family, who were visiting me in Atlanta for the holidays. I was looking forward to spending precious time with them since we only see each other a few times per year. The morning after I arrived home, with my family awaiting me for breakfast, I didn't feel so well. I thought maybe it was just that I was exhausted from the week and relieved to have a couple weeks off the road. I missed my mother's homemade breakfast, which is always a scrumptious spread.
After making myself get out of bed, I went through the day feeling badly … achy and sweaty, and had no appetite, which is definitely not like me. As the week progressed, each day, I got worse. My coughing increased significantly, as well as my mucus production, not to mention how quickly it was obviously laden with infection (dark green). I continued to run a low-grade fever and felt horrible but tried to subdue my illness as I didn't want to worry my loved ones.
Unfortunately, as I continued to worsen, I missed out on valuable time with my family that I will never get back, as I slept most of the days to come and missed most of the family meals.
Once my family headed home to Florida, I consulted with my husband and we decided I should go to the hospital (actually, my husband wanted me to go days before … the truth is that I finally gave in). Once admitted, I learned I had the flu. I spent the better part of the next week in the hospital with a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line for multiple intravenous (IV) antibiotics. I increased my breathing treatments, used my vest more frequently too and took other medications like Benadryl to offset the allergic reactions to the antibiotics, which then caused me to sleep a lot.
As a result of my extended hospital stay, you can guess where I spent New Year's Eve, which was a complete bummer. My husband and I had plans to head to downtown Atlanta and watch the 2016 Annual Peach Drop. Instead, we laid in my hospital bed and watched it on the television. Not a great way to spend New Year's Eve!
I was sent home on IV and oral antibiotics for another two weeks with eight doses per day. If you have ever had strong doses of antibiotics, then you know the havoc they wreak on your digestive system, causing diarrhea and stomach pain. I was constantly worried about getting an infection in my gut like Clostridium difficile or C. diff, which in some cases can be deadly.
After completing the long round of antibiotics, it took another couple of weeks to get back to pre-flu stamina and feeling 100 percent. Basically, I was knocked out of commission for a month (Reminder: there are only 12 of them in a year, so this is pretty significant!).
So, why get a flu shot? If you don't get a flu shot, you take a chance of getting the flu virus and spreading it to your loved ones, your coworkers or innocent bystanders on an airplane or subway. By catching the flu, I was also at risk of contracting other viruses or bacteria by being exposed to sick people in the hospital or developing C. diff. Most important, I missed valuable time with my family that I treasure beyond words and can never get back.
Please, please, please get a flu shot … if not for yourself, do it for your loved ones, friends and coworkers, whether or not you are blessed with CF!