Health Team

Death-defying experience has woman sold on flu shot

Posted September 23, 2011
Updated September 24, 2011

With cooler weather setting in, flu season is right around the corner. Although doctors say the flu vaccine is the best protection available, only about 43 percent of Americans got the vaccine in fall 2010. That was an increase of 8 million individuals from 2009.

Emelia Cowans was one of those who skipped the vaccine in 2009, a choice that almost cost her life.

Cowans, who works at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and is a TV hostess for the North Carolina Education Lottery, saw her busy life stopped cold in October 2009 as she battled what she thought was just a bad cold and fever.

"It knocked me flat on my back," she said.

She had not had a flu shot. In fact, she had not had one for 10 years. But the H1N1 flu strain threatened the country that fall.

She ended up with double pneumonia and was hospitalized at WakeMed for what she thought would be just three days.

"Three days turned into a month," she said.

Woman warns: Get a flu shot Woman warns: Get a flu shot

She spent most of that time in a medically induced coma and on life support.

"I have no memory of, I'd say, October the 6th through the first week of November," she said. "The doctors gave me a 1 percent chance of survival."

She beat those odds, and she returned to work after spending two months in the hospital and one month in Indiana recuperating with family.

After her ordeal, she says, she won't miss a flu shot again and encourages others to get vaccinated as well.

"What happened to me can happen to anybody," she said.

The flu vaccine for this winter includes protection from both H1N1 and the seasonal flu strain.

The peak of the flu season is typically late January through February, so anytime before the end of November is the best time to get vaccinated.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • imsosorry Sep 29, 2011

    I get the flu every year with or without the shot.

  • ezrilouwho Sep 29, 2011

    No help from WRAL on how to know if it is a cold or the flu? If you are reading this do a search and educate yourself as the article seems to be simply scaring folks into doing something that is a shot in the dark- The shot only protects you from the strain they BELIEVE might be the one to strike this year.

    Be careful. Know the signs of illness. Treat illness appropriately.

    If you are sick... STAY HOME, GET WELL. The rest of the world doesn't want what you have.

  • fourfivesix Sep 29, 2011

    @DWH4sure: yes, the flu vaccine does have the virus in it. in the injection, it's a killed (inactive) virus & you are unable to catch the flu from it. in the nasal mist, it's a live weakened virus. that is how vaccines are made...

    for more info:

  • Garnerwolf1 Sep 28, 2011

    And I know someone that contracted Guillain-Barre after a flu shot. And that's not something you don't want either. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

  • freedom monkey Sep 28, 2011

    No shot for me and my family ever again. Educate yourselves about the side effects. It's states them all in the package insert, not the little insert, the PACKAGE INSERT. Notice in the article they did not state the woman's general health. Most people who have a terrible reaction to the flu has a compromised immune system. Take care of your body and it will take care of you, unlike these deadly inoculations.

  • freedom monkey Sep 28, 2011

    From the FDA flu shot vaccine insert page.

    Body as a whole: Local injection site reactions (including pain, pain limiting limb
    movement, redness, swelling, warmth, ecchymosis, induration), hot flashes/flushes;
    chills; fever; malaise; shivering; fatigue; asthenia; facial edema.
     Immune system disorders: Hypersensitivity reactions (including throat and/or mouth
    edema). In rare cases, hypersensitivity reactions have lead to anaphylactic shock and
     Cardiovascular disorders: Vasculitis (in rare cases with transient renal involvement), syncope shortly after vaccination.  Digestive disorders: Diarrhea; nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain.  Blood and lymphatic disorders: Local lymphadenopathy; transient thrombocytopenia.  Metabolic and nutritional disorders: Loss of appetite.  Musculoskeletal: Arthralgia; myalgia; myasthenia.  Nervous system disorders: Headache;

  • DWH4sure Sep 27, 2011

    Ya'll do know that the flu vaccine doesn't actually HAVE the flu in it, right? So you don't catch the flu from the vaccine. I, too, have felt a little achy and flu-y a few times after getting the shot, but that's the body reacting to the "virus" and building up the immunity it needs to fight off any real attacks. There is also the very real chance that people get a strain of the flu that isn't covered by the current year's vaccine, and there's not much anyone can do about that. The virus mutates so often and so rapidly that it's really hard to keep up with a single vaccine. But... that's the best we've got, and as for me and my house, we will be vaccinated.

  • Ambygirl Sep 27, 2011

    I used to get flu shots on a regular basis. hen about 3 years ago after getting a flu shot, I had a reaction to it that caused the lymph node in my neck to swell trememndously. After going to the doctor and being told by several nurses that it could not be a reaction to the flu shot, I was told by the doctor it WAS a reaction. He sent me to the emergency room where I spent 12 hours waitng for an MRI and it was determined again, this was a reaction and I was given meds. Thousands of $'s and a week later, the swelling went down. I have not had a flu shot since. I did get the flu last year but I will not take the chance again of having another reaction so no more flu shots for me.......Most people that get the vaccine do not have reactions and I still believe it is safe. I especially believe that elderly folks should have them. Just not for myself....

  • just my2cents Sep 27, 2011

    I had a death-defying experience after one. Have not gotten one since. I had the flu ssssooo bad for weeks and weeks (6 or so) after getting it, I was admitted for dehydration, malnourishment and I lost 27 pounds. Taught me a lesson.

  • veyor Sep 27, 2011

    Every single time I've taken a flu shot I've gotten a low grade fever (100) for three days afterwards. I've stopped taking them.