Fall is here—which means the end of boob sweat while watching our kids play sports in 95-degree weather, the switch from flip-flops to boots, and ALL the pumpkin spice in all the land. Yay! However, it also means the start of flu season. Did you get your flu shot yet? I’ll get mine at the minute clinic at Walgreens or CVS next time I’m out running errands. My kids are scheduled to get theirs at their pediatrician’s office in a couple weeks. We’ll still get sick—we always do. Coughs, sneezing, the occasional fever, and the dreaded stomach bug will make their way through our house, flu shot or no flu shot. But one thing our doctor always says is, “If you got sick after getting the shot, imagine how sick you could have been without it.”
And I’ve often wondered if she’s just blowing smoke up my ass and selling me the same line as every other doctor so we continue to herd like sheep, willingly (and naively) letting them stick us with whatever Big Pharma says we “need.”
But then I read stories like this one, and I remember why vaccines are important. Why modern medicine matters. And why I’m lucky to live in a country where my family has access to them.
In a post that’s now been shared 1.5k times, a 41-year old woman named Michele Pepin tells a horrific story of how the flu ravaged her body, and how she went from being a healthy mom of three to wondering if she’ll even live to see her kids grow up.
“I was never against vaccines but like many ‘healthy’, privileged people I often avoided vaccines I really believed I simply didn’t need,” she writes. “And the flu was a big one.”
She says she did get the shot some years while working as a CNA, and didn’t others. Either way, she never got the flu.
Until January of 2017.
“I was healthy. 40 yrs old at the time, low cholesterol, blood pressure by the low side, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver all 100%. I was healthy! There was absolutely nothing wrong with me in any way,” her post reads.
She goes on to say that one morning she woke up feeling sick, and assumed the kids brought home a cold. She tried Nyquil and rest, but got worse.
When she started coughing up water, she took herself to the hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia. She took a medication to cure it, and assumed she’d be in the clear within a few days.
The following day, however, she knew that wouldn’t be the case.
“I was in acute respiratory failure. I spent 6 days on IV Levaquin and steroids. I became septic that first day back at the hospital and my lungs were both completely filled with puss with air leaking on both sides into my pleural spaces. I was dying. I had fevers of 104.5, my heart rate was up around 150… and I couldn’t breathe. The puss is so thick I can’t cough it up. I lay there hallucinating and crying as the sepsis damaged every organ in my body including my eyes. Sepsis hurts. It’s hard to describe it but it’s like feeling your insides rotting. Your eyes hurt, your head, even your veins and skin. You can feel it, your entire body becomes infected,” her post reads.
This healthy mother’s body was shutting down because of the flu.
When she heard the doctors say things like, “We’ve never seen this type of progression before” and “We’re doing all we can,” she realized she might not make it through this.
“I remember laying there thinking ‘omg I might not actually survive this. How will this ruin my kids’ lives? They’re too young to lose their mom,'” Pepin writes.
By day 6, she says, “Both of my arms are so infiltrated (hot and hard to the touch) they can’t even draw blood from my arms so they take it from between my knuckles. You could literally feel the veins, they were rock hard and protruding. It took almost 6 months for all of the veins in my arms to return to normal where you couldn’t feel them through the skin anymore.”
Pepin shares that the ordeal caused her to lose 40 pounds, be unable to walk for weeks, and that she didn’t return to work for two months.
And she never fully healed.
“The sepsis and the medications needed to save me from it left me with stage 3 out of 5 renal failure, nonalcoholic fatty liver, and severely damaged vision,” her post reads. “The pneumonia left my lungs so damaged that I now have a disease called ‘Bullous disease’ which is a rare and severe form of emphysema. I’m in stage D. End stage is stage E. Basically I have big “bowls” in my lungs that will never heal or function. My other organs have healed (liver and kidneys) but my lungs and eyes will never improve.”
She takes steroids constantly to ensure her lungs can function. She cannot walk upstairs without gasping. But as a mother myself, the most heartbreaking part of her post was this:
“I will never hike a mountain with my kids again. I’ll never be able to go skiing with them or anything that involves any type of moderate exercise. I’m a dead woman walking now. This WILL kill me. My youngest is 12, so I’m hoping to make it until she’s about 20/21. Anything beyond that would be miraculous.”
Pepin says that now, if her kids bring home germs like a common cold, it could kill her—a fear no child should have to face.
At the end of her post, the mom of three begs us to get our flu shots. “It’s not worth the risk. Please get vaccinated.”
Obviously Michele Pepin’s story is a rare occurrence. Most healthy adults can fight off the flu without long term health issues. But honestly, we don’t know what this illness is capable of until we are the ones fighting it ourselves. I’ll sure get my flu shot after reading this story, and Michele Pepin hopes her story will inspire you to do the same.