Joanne Keating, 48, from Peterborough, explains why she is so lucky to be alive...
Collapsing on the sofa in a heap, I massaged my pounding head.
It was February last year and I had flu.
As well as a headache, I had a fever, my throat was sore, and I felt sick and had a cough…
‘I feel rotten,’ I sighed to my partner Mark, 45.
I took paracetamol, but I just didn’t seem to be getting better.
Then, a few days on, I started having trouble breathing.
I was feeling dazed, too, so Mark called our doctor.
He came out to see me and told me I was dehydrated.
‘Get plenty of rest,’ he said.
Hours later, I felt worse, so Mark called an ambulance.
I was rushed straight to the resuscitation ward at Peterborough City Hospital.
‘We think it’s pneumonia,’ I heard a doctor tell Mark.
Then, everything was a blur.
In a battle to save me, I was put into an induced coma, but my condition deteriorated…
My heart, lungs and liver began to shut down.
‘She might not make it,’ a doctor warned Mark.
Devastated, he phoned my four daughters, Maria, 30, Kerry, 28, Nikki, 27, and Kayleigh, 25.
‘Come and say goodbye,’ he sobbed.
Then Mark went home and told our son Callum, 15.
Heartbroken, Mark, the kids and my brother Andy, 34, piled around my bed as I continued to fight for my life.
And I clung on…
Days on, still in a coma, I was transferred to Papworth Hospital for specialist care.
I received extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment.
It took over the function of my lungs, allowing them time to heal and rest.
During treatment, I had two bleeds on my brain. But, thankfully, I was OK.
Next I knew, I was being brought round from the coma.
All I could hear was nurses and doctors rushing around. And there was a high-pitched, continuous bleeping sound.
Turned out I’d gone into cardiac arrest.
‘No!’ I heard a nurse panic.
Luckily, they saved me. But over the next 48 hours, I had eight more cardiac arrests.
It’s such a blur.
It was a few days later that I began to come round properly.
Mark and the doctors helped me to understand what’d happened.
‘We almost lost you!’ Mark sobbed.
Turned out it wasn’t just the flu that I’d been suffering from.
‘You actually had swine flu,’ a doctor told me.
I knew there’d been a swine flu pandemic in 2009. But that was years ago.
I’d had absolutely no idea the virus was still going round.
‘The flu jab helps to prevent it,’ a doctor explained.
But I hadn’t had a flu jab in quite a few years.
Like many others, I was convinced it’d make me feel ill, so, foolishly, I’d avoided it.
‘I regret that now,’ I cried.
If I’d have gone for the jab, I might not have contracted the swine flu virus.
By now, I’d been inhospital for more than eight-and-a-half weeks.
My muscles were weak, and I needed to learn to walk again.
But, amazingly, within just four days, I was up and walking around using a frame.
I couldn’t thank the staff at both hospitals enough.
So many people complain about the NHS, but the care I received was beyond amazing.
Now, more than a year later, I’m still suffering. I’ve got nerve damage in my legs and I’m waiting to see a specialist.
Thankfully, I don’t seem to have any long-term effects from the nine cardiac arrests I had.
But I’m fatigued a lot, and always feel exhausted.
I refuse to mope, though.
I stared death in the face and survived nine cardiac arrests. The word ‘lucky’ doesn’t even come close.
‘You’re like a cat with nine lives,’ Mark tells me.
I hope by sharing my story, it encourages others to get the flu vaccine.
Don’t leave it to chance. I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anyone.