Kerri Cosma


The flu nearly killed me

After almost dying from the flu, Kerri Cosma wants to talk about the importance of the flu vaccination.

Austin Health outpatient Kerri Cosma still lives with ongoing health issues due to her experience with the flu.

"As a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I was super healthy. I worked every day in the gym and I'd regularly leg press 200 kilos." says Ms Cosma.

Almost a year ago, Kerri Cosma went on a family holiday to China.

"I was walking around Disneyland in Shanghai feeling a bit sick and then five days later I was in hospital fighting for my life. What happened to me is horrific."

Kerri doesn't remember much of her story, and relies on what her family have told her happened.

"My family took me to the doctor, who did a throat swab diagnosed the flu. The doctor didn't believe in preventative antiviral medication like Tamiflu, he said you'll be fine and ordered me to rest."

Ms Cosma's family took her back to the hotel room, where she deteriorated quickly. They then took her an international clinic in Nanjing.

"At this point they can't get drips in me, my stats are really bad and my family are told there's not much of a chance of survival for me," says Ms Cosma.

Further tests showed that Ms Cosma had swine flu.

She was then taken to hospital, where doctors requested she be put on ECMO (Extra-Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation), a life support machine which allows for oxygenation and removal of carbon dioxide from blood.

"I was put in an induced coma and put on ECMO for ten days. When they got me off ECMO, I then got acute respiratory distress syndrome brought on by another infection. I was starting to get better and then I crashed again."

"I had a tracheotomy, then I got a superbug."

"We went for a two-week holiday, and it turned into a 3-month nightmare."

"I experienced delirium while in the coma, it's like you're living in another world. I thought I was kidnapped; I didn't know where my family was or what country I was in."

After emerging from her coma, Ms Cosma was flown by air ambulance to Austin Health, where she spent another three weeks in hospital.

"You just think you're going to get better, I just had the flu. But you don't just get better, I lost all my hair, I have muscle fatigue, muscle waste and only this week have I been able to go for a 20-minute walk."

"I had to learn how to eat, to walk; the rehab is so intense. I had to resign from my job, I just can't work at the moment."

"I've had issues with my electrolytes, my sodium levels are low. The only way they can treat this is fluid restriction, I'm on 700ml of fluid. Which incorporates fluid in food. It's just so hard"

Being vaccinated against the flu reduced your risk of catching the flu and lessens the severity if you do.

"I never used to get the flu shot every year but things have changed. I had my flu fax yesterday with the four strains, not the three."

"People need to remember; the flu is not just a three-week sickness. It could be so much; it could be life changing."

"It's just a simple vaccination, just get it."

Austin Health's free staff flu vaccination program starts Thursday. Staff should visit the Hub for more information.
In Victoria, the Better Health Channel reports that an annual vaccination against the flu is free for:
  • all Victorian children aged six months to less than five years of age
  • people who have medical conditions that put them at risk of serious complications of the flu
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to under five years and 15 years and over
  • pregnant women - at any stage of pregnancy
  • people 65 years and over.

Contact your doctor or immunisation provider for further information about eligibility. People not covered by these categories can also have an annual flu immunisation but it is not available for free.