Double trouble in Queensland’s influenza season

Double trouble in Queensland’s influenza season

Mater mum Jackie Woods already had three children including 11 year old fraternal twins when she found out she was having another set of twins due in September this year – her pregnancy was in the midst of the influenza epidemic which meant she would need to be extra vigilant.

Jackie’s obstetrician Dr Eva Kretowicz, would already be keeping a close eye on things after her first set of twins were born at 28 weeks.

At five weeks pregnant Jackie was shocked to realise how big her belly was already. Prior to the six week scan, her nine year old son Jack had already predicted she was having twins and he was proven correct.

“I just half laughed and half cried when the sonographer told me,” Jackie said.

“It was completely unexpected and while I wouldn’t change a thing now, it was still a shock,” she said.

Jackie needed progesterone at 17 weeks gestation and at 25 weeks developed vertigo and required a five night hospital stay after she couldn’t eat or drink.

At 28 weeks, Jackie was still suffering from dizziness but now combined with belly and back pain, was ordered onto full hospital bed rest following tests to ensure mum and babies were progressing as necessary.

With a busy household outside hospital walls, Jackie was granted day release to celebrate her son’s ninth birthday.

“My daughter had visited the day before and complained of a sore throat, so I was advised to take precautions to stop the spread of infection just in case she was getting a cold,” Jackie said.

“However when I went home for the birthday, it was clear she quite unwell and by the end of the day, my son was complaining of a sore chest and I had developed a cough,” she said.

Back at Mater, Jackie was given the influenza vaccination however her condition deteriorated. Tests revealed she had not one, but two strains of influenza and required oxygen for five days.

Intensive care unit (ICU) specialists, infectious diseases specialists and Dr Kretowicz met by her bedside to discuss options to stabilise her health and protect her babies.

“I was 31 weeks at this stage and there was discussion about whether I should be placed in ICU, be intubated to help me breathe or deliver my babies,” she said.

Jackie was given antibiotics, pain relief and injections to prevent deep vein thrombosis.

“It was pretty scary to feel so unwell and be worrying about my babies,” Jackie said.

A nurse was stationed to Jackie’s bedside full time in lieu of a bed in ICU and thankfully her influenza stabilised.

“I was fortunate to have a midwife called Kerry who went above and beyond to make sure I was ok. Kerry was my support person when I really needed it and would even bring me honey and lemon tea,” Jackie said.

“I was having regular blood tests and during lunch I was told ‘stop eating as you will probably need to deliver the babies as your results aren’t great’,” she said.

However, another test showed her levels had changed again, meaning emergency delivery wasn’t required. Jackie hadn’t seen her family in more than a week, was suffering immense pain in her ribs from coughing and felt depressed.

“I had felt so sick and I missed my family desperately. I asked Dr Kretowicz if I could go home and thankfully she agreed as I was now 33 weeks which was fine if I went into labour,” Jackie said.

After three and a half weeks in hospital, Jackie was able to go home.

Jackie was back at the Pregnancy Assessment Centre a week and a half later (at 34 +3 weeks) where labour progressed very quickly, and identical twins Willow and Isabella were born weighing a healthy 2.5 kg. The girls only spent two days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and eight days in the Special Care nursery.

Dr Eva Kretowicz said she was so worried about Jackie’s condition during her pregnancy.

“Healthy people in the community can suffer tremendously from having influenza and here was a pregnant woman with twins who was incredibly sick,” she said.

“To go through all that and not deliver was truly amazing,” Dr Kretowicz said.

Reflecting on her experience, Jackie is grateful to be able to be a home with her five children.

“It was a rollercoaster ride to bring our girls into the world.

“I’m so aware things could easily have turned out differently for the twins or even myself and I’m grateful to be able to be together with my family today thanks to everyone who looked after me at Mater,” she said.

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