Michaela McNally, with her daughter Maggie, nine months after contracting swine flu
Imagine. Imagine waking from a coma, anxious loved ones at your side, but a moment, one you had dreamed of has evaded you.
“Everyone kept saying the baby is alright but I was like what baby, what do you mean?” said Hamilton woman, Michaela McNally, 41.
In July 2014, Michaela was 35 weeks pregnant and preparing for one of the greatest moments in her life, the birth of her first child. But on the weekend of her baby shower she noticed feeling “slightly off”.
“I was coming down with something. I came home and slept and then just gradually I got worse and worse and started going downhill.”
Over the following week Michaela become more delirious, a visit to Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department and then a visit to Anglesea Clinic led to her being taken to hospital in an ambulance with swine flu.
“I was aware of women, well everyone getting the flu, of course, but I wasn’t aware how badly it can affect you when you are pregnant,” said Michaela.
The following month was the closest Michaela had come to death. In and out of induced comas, a tracheotomy, an emergency caesarean, being tube fed, needing a machine to breathe – this was her story.
“It ended up being really serious. I nearly died…my daughter could have grown up without a mother.”
The day after Michaela was admitted to hospital she was put into an induced coma and the following day doctors performed an emergency caesarean to deliver her five week premature baby – all the while Michaela was still in a coma.
“My parents were told that their daughter might die and my partner was told to prepare to be a solo dad, it was terrible for them.”
It was not till the following week Michaela was woken from her coma and finally had the opportunity to meet her daughter. Michaela and her partner announced Maggie’s name to family, but then it all went wrong again, her vital signs indicated her body was still not recovering. Three days later, while in the Intensive Care Unit, doctors decided to put Michaela back to sleep.
“It was a horrible experience. I was tube fed, a machine had to help me breathe…I could not even hold my baby.”
In total Michaela was admitted to hospital for a month, while her daughter spent the first three weeks of her life in Waikato Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit. But when Michaela finally went home she still needed 24 hour care.
“I could not walk without help, had a shower seat and the coughing attacks were utterly exhausting…” she said.
Now nine months on and Michaela is still not fully recovered.
“I won’t be fully recovered for at least 18 months. I am feeling about 80 per cent recovered but I will always have that lung damage.
“When I get up in the morning I feel about 90 years old. My bones, my legs, everything aches and my muscles are sore.”
But the worst part for Michaela was missing out on the first moments of her baby’s life.
“I couldn’t do anything. I needed help 24/7. I couldn’t be alone with my baby. I couldn’t pick her up out of the cot to feed her,” she said.
“One little jab would have enabled me to give birth normally…I think there is a lot of misinformation about vaccinations out there… If you want to be there when your baby is born – one of the most important days of your life – what is a little jab?”
Michaela said the misinformation prevents women truly understanding the consequences this can have on them and their unborn child.
Research shows pregnant women are more susceptible to viral infections because of hormonal and physical changes in the body.
Lung capacity is decreased during pregnancy because room is needed in the pelvis for the foetus to grow. The female body also suppresses parts of the immune system to prevent genetic difference in the foetus being treated by the body as foreign. This often means women are more susceptible to viral infections.
Waikato District Health Board medical officer of health Felicity Dumble said there is a two-for-one benefit when pregnant women are vaccinated.
“Newborns cannot receive influenza vaccines until they are six months old, so this way you get mother and baby immune,” she said.
Dr Dumble also explained the vaccines used are “inactive viruses” which meant there was no risk of women contracting the flu from the immunisation.
Michaela said if anything she did not want another person’s family to go the same trauma.
“Don’t mess with your life and your baby’s. It is not going to hurt you, it is not going to hurt your baby – all it is going to do is let you have your baby.”
If you are pregnant you can visit your GP to receive your.