Welsh Ambulance Service manager who was hospitalised with severe flu urges people to get vaccinated this winter
A Welsh Ambulance Service manager who thought he had a bout of ‘man flu’ would later be told he had hours to live after it turned out to be the flu virus.
Pete Brown was 27 when he developed flu-like symptoms, but his rapid deterioration saw him admitted to intensive care and put in an induced coma.
His condition was so critical that his family held a bedside vigil after doctors warned he may not survive the night.
Pete, of Abergavenny, said: “The flu had a massive impact on my life in a way I can’t begin to explain, both in terms of my physical health and my mental health.
“I was actually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder afterwards because of the flashbacks to the intensive care ward and the awful dreams.
“I’ll always remember being told by the consultant to get my family to come to the hospital really quickly because her confidence in me surviving that night wasn’t great.”
Pete, a Business Manager based in Cwmbran, was working as a head of operations for NHS England when he first took ill in 2014.
“I was a fit and healthy 27-year-old in my twelfth year in the ambulance service and thought I didn’t need to have the flu jab,” he said.
“That autumn I developed what I thought was ‘man flu’ and it got progressively worse over the course of a week.
“I remember being sat in a café in Sainsbury’s just feeling awful. I had a high temperature yet I felt freezing. I also had a cough and a runny nose. I just wanted to sleep.
“That evening, I felt so unwell that we called 999 and I ended up in the Emergency Department at Nevill Hall Hospital where they discovered that my oxygen saturation levels were at nine per cent, which is actually considered unsurvivable.
“I was admitted onto the intensive care at the Royal Gwent Hospital, where I spent four days in total, two of which were in an induced coma.”
In an unfortunate twist, Pete also passed the virus to his partner, who herself spent two weeks unwell.
Flu is a common viral illness which is spread by coughs and sneezes. The most common symptoms include high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle and joint pain, headache, coughing, and feeling tired.
For most people, it is mainly unpleasant, but for some, it can be very serious and even fatal.
Pete, who is originally from Berkshire, was later discharged from hospital to begin his recovery, which would include physiotherapy and counselling.
His recovery was “painful and slow” with walking up a flight of stairs causing him fatigue and exhaustion.
Now 34, Pete is calling on his ambulance service colleagues and the public to have their flu vaccination.
He said: “Whilst the decision of mine to not have the jab really cost me, it also cost others around me.
“Even if you think you’re indestructible, watching that kind of illness falling on someone that you love and are really close to is heart-breaking and not something you’d ever wish to put our family and loved ones in that position of.
“It takes only a couple of minutes to be vaccinated. By getting the flu jab, we can all work together to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community.”
Click here for more about this year’s Beat Flu campaign by Public Health Wales.
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