Flu kills

Polly Gillespie has a column that hits home as she celebrates the life of the sister she lost to the flu.

In October 2000 my sister died of influenza in Waikato hospital.

She got sick on the Tuesday and was dead on the Saturday. It was a horrible death. I’ll never forget sitting with her all through the night. She was in an induced coma. Blood seeped from her eyes, nose and ears. Her hands and feet turned black.

The wonderful staff at the hospital hooked her up to a machine that removed her blood, cleaned it, and pumped it back through her body. The noise of that machine will live in my head forever.

“If she lives, and she probably won’t,” the doctor said, “I’m afraid she will lose her hands and feet.”

“I don’t care!” I said. “Please just save her.”

How could an artist, scientist, and Les Mills fitness fanatic live without hands and feet? I didn’t care about her. I just wanted Jeanette alive for “me”. The problem was because she was so young and fit, her body was battling the infection so hard that it killed itself in the struggle.

Please don’t believe the flu only kills old and vulnerable people. My sister was in her prime. She was healthy, fit and lean.

Don’t tell me you have the flu when you have a cold. Don’t tell me you don’t need the flu injection. Don’t tell me you know anything about the flu until you’ve seen someone die of it, in a matter of days.

Don’t even talk to me about the flu until you’ve watched a body shut down, bleed from every orifice, and then die with lungs full of fluid. There was no combination of antibiotics strong enough to save the life of a near perfect human being.

Get the flu shot. Don’t write to me telling me about bad reactions. Don’t begin to talk to me about not believing in vaccinations, because I really might hurt you. And I’ll certainly hate you. I’ve seen the result of not getting a flu vaccination. Jeanette told me she didn’t think she needed one because she was fit and healthy.

Influenza kills young, amazing, gifted, beautiful, incredible people. It’s quick, and it’s brutal, and extraordinarily messy. Please get vaccinated.



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  • Mrs_R

    I read this earlier today. Very sober reading, and it certainly is a heart wrenching example of why no one wants a loved one to experience the flu. Is it enough to convince me to get the flu vaccine for the first time? Possibly.

    • Wheninrome

      Go for it. I have chosen to have the flu injection every year since available, a lot of shots. They say 80% effective. I have had the odd ache and severe pain which has lasted 24 hours, no not a cold, the bone aches which I am told are symtematic of the flu, 24 hours is fine, I would not have wanted them to last longer.
      Told that the flu injection lessens the severity , so have the injection, it takes 10 days to work, so to those who say they get sick after the shot this is not as a result of the injection, you were nursing something at the time.. Most say it causes a cold which is rubbish. You can get a muscle ache where the injection went, but that is because of a needle going into flesh.

  • intelligentes candida diva

    A powerful message.
    I am like a tightrope walker when it comes to flu injections I have had it twice and each time I got sick. I was prescribed 10 days anti biotics and had to have more. The next time I got sick the Dr automatically gave me 15 days script.

    i have gone two years without the flu injection and have been fine.

    When I get sick I am prone to chest infections Since last time I was really sick I take pro biotics one a day, Krill with EPA 90mg strength and 49mg and krill 750mg and try to eat healthy most of the time.

    With all due respect to the loss I have never thought it is only the old and vulnerable
    I have seen too many people sick and in my last job there are a lot of careless people who turn up to work sniffling n coughing …such a pet hate of mine go home I dont want to get sick.
    I still debate whether I should get the flu injection and this story is disturbingly convincing

    • Jude

      I have never had the flu in my life.
      I have been around people with flu symptoms but figure i may have an immunity to the bugs.
      If I were in an environment for instance nursing, then I definitely would consider the vaccine purely to protect the vulnerable.

      • Cracker1963

        One of the biggest issues is that people call a cold ‘The Flu’. My Dr told me that 9 out of 10 of his patients claim to have the flu when they just have a cold. I am a bad asthmatic & spent 3 years in a row in hospital after being ill with the flu twice & a head cold the other time triggering asthma attacks. I have had the flu injection for the last 5 years and have not been ill since & no asthma attacks. Touching wood.

    • Cracker1963

      Doubtful the Flu injection had anything to do with you being ill & the fact you were given antibiotics means you had a bacterial infection- the flu is of course viral. Correlation is not causation.

      • intelligentes candida diva

        Alright then. I had a severe chest infection and I do know correlation is not causation!
        Im not the Dr but the antibiotics certainly helped my chest infection at those two times.
        Interesting too is that within the post it is identified as “…There was no combination of antibiotics strong enough to save the life of….’ so while not causation perhaps there is correlation to ramifications from the flu hence the need for antibiotics ….
        Because I get asthma im just a bit wary of getting sick and the thought of the flu is scary

        • Michelle

          The flu or any virus strips the bodies defence mechanisms and the bacterial ie chest infections take hold
          l suffer from asthma and get chest infections if l get a cold so l have the flu injection after getting very sick many years ago and not had any chest infections but l do take Vit C with echinacea 1000mg daily through winter

          Each to their own
          If you are happy with what you do then stick with it,
          l am happy to line up for my flu jab but others do not and seem to get through fine

          • intelligentes candida diva

            I will try the extra Vit C with echinacea 1000mg

          • Intrigued

            You have described my situation exactly too.
            I’ve been meaning to get my free flu shot as an asthmatic and had even for a moment toyed with the idea of not getting it this year – but after this article and post I’ll be off to get it tomorrow for sure and booking the kids in too. Nothing worse than the weeks and months of battling with the complications and opportunistic bacterial infections you can get on top of the flu!

  • Oh Please

    The problem is that the vaccines are flu strain specific, so there is no guarantee it will prevent the flu. At best it reduces the chances.
    I have had the flu twice – once it lasted six weeks, the second time 2 weeks. I was in my teens and twenties, at my physical peak. Who knows what is for the best when the medical ‘experts’ are up for sale.

  • PersonOfColor:WHITE

    Not to spread any alarm, but flu can be a pandemic. Don’t be blase’ about it. http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/influenza-pandemic-1918

  • Wayne McDougall

    If you are in the at-risk group then definitely get the vaccination. Until I am in that group, I will not get the flu vaccination. Everything else, but not the flu, and here’s why:

    I want to be exposed to the flu virus while I am young(ish) and healthy(ish) because naturally acquired immunity lasts a lifetime(ish). The immunity from the vaccine lasts a much shorter time (as short as 1-3 years in some people).

    Flu types come in cycles. Some over multidecades. Studies looked at why some flu variants hit young people and the old seemed relatively immune. Turns out this happens when a new variant is similar to an old one from 25 years ago. If you developed immunity to that old version, you are protected today.

    That is the protection I want. Until I fall into an at-risk group. Then I hope to double my chances. When I’m 75 I’ll be less worried about the variant I’ll meet again at 100 – and hopefully I already saw it at 50.

    • Dog Breath

      I have flu shots for as long as I can remember. Consequently in my mind I have accumulated resistance over a wide range of flu viruses. The end result I have been flu free for over the last 25 years, even colds are rare events and are a very minor inconvenience. 4 years agp I was diagnosed with a terminal disease which made me vunerable to infections colds and flu. None of these events happened. Thanks to a medical miracle a year ago I am cured of the terminal condition however I am subjected to massive dosages of various medicines that I now need to survive yet no flu or cold during last winter.
      I cannot be sure that my long term use of flu injections have allowed me to live a life of no flu and a few colds over many many years. I like to think it has done something towards my health.

  • Michelle

    Whatever happened with the high dose vitamin C that a family went to court so their father got the flu a few years back and was on life support, he survived as far as l know
    Why are they not using that or are they using it and we are not hearing about it ?

    • Wayne McDougall

      To be very clear. High doses of vitamin c have been extensively and thoroughly tested.

      They do no good at all.

  • Dave of the West Bank

    “The 1918 Influenza killed a disproportionately high number of healthy young adults.”


  • Steve (North Shore)

    There are some that never get sick, never had the flu, and never get vacinated. They are the carriers. These smartbugs don’t want a sick, nearly dead host; they want a healthy host so as to maximise the effect. The healthy won’t accept that they are part of the problem – my employer is one of them and so is my partner.
    At my age I need to be more carefull, 70 something weeks until I may retire