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.
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.