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Nancy Good, a Torrington resident, is a patient at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. Good didn't get a flu shot and she was infected by the H1N1 virus, which developed into double pneumonia. She nearly died, as her lungs were heavily damaged. | Eric Vo / Record-Journal

After overcoming severe case, woman champions flu shots

WALLINGFORD — Nancy Good can’t remember anything that happened to her between Feb. 10 and March 7. Sitting in a room at Gaylord Hospital Friday morning, Good said the last thing she remembers were paramedics coming into her Torrington home.

During the nearly month-long period she came close to dying from double pneumonia, which doctors said could have been avoided if she had gotten a flu shot.

The 58-year-old said she doesn’t usually get a flu shot. When she started feeling ill, Good thought it was just the common cold.

“I didn’t feel well and I thought I was just sick,” she said. “But my chest was crackling.”

One night, she had trouble breathing and her sister called 9-1-1. The last thing she remembers was the “EMT getting me on a stretcher,” she said. She was taken to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington and transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital by LifeStar helicopter, where doctors diagnosed her double pneumonia.

The pneumonia, caused by a strain of the H1N1 flu virus, heavily damaged her lungs. Doctors put her on a machine that transports oxygenated blood into her body, a form of life support.

“They shut down my lungs,” Good said. “They tried to take me off the machine, but I still wasn’t breathing. They said if it didn’t work, there was nothing they could do.”

If her lungs didn’t get better, Good said doctors told her she would die if she was taken off the machine.

On March 7, doctors took Good off the machine a third time and she was able to breathe on her own.

When she was transferred to Gaylord, Good received a tracheotomy to help her breathe. When she talks now, she uses one hand to place over the bandaged area on her neck so air goes through the wind pipe. She’ll have to do that until the hole heals, she said.

Good said at Gaylord she’s going through physical therapy to build up her strength. Doctors believe she also had a stroke, which caused nerve damage in her leg.

“I’m trying to get the strength back,” she said. “It’s like you’re jelly.”

Her discharge date is next week. Reflecting on her ordeal, Good said she’ll start getting a flu shot in the future. Gaylord’s Chief Medical Officer Steve Holland said there are between 30,000 and 50,000 deaths in the United States because of the flu.

If a person becomes infected by the influenza virus, Holland said, it can lead to other complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. He added that younger and older people are at more risk.

“It amazes me that something so preventative and simple, people don’t do,” Holland said.

Flu shots recently started carrying three different strands of viruses, including H1N1, according to Tara Knapp, vice president of development and public relations for Gaylord. Holland emphasized it was important to get the flu shot each year, even now.

“Flu incidents in Connecticut are higher now than they were last year,” Holland said. “It’s still around.” (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ

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