South West Wales

Swine flu warning from Pembrokeshire woman struck down

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Media captionSwine flu warning

A mother who nearly died after being struck down by swine flu urged people to get vaccinated against flu strains.

Helen Watts, 42, spent a week in March in a critical care unit and is still not well enough to return to work.

Swine flu caused a pandemic in 2009 when the virus jumped from animals and while there are now fewer cases, it brings symptoms like fevers and coughs.

Mrs Watts, of Jeffreyston, Pembrokeshire, believes she got it because she did not have a flu vaccine.

In January, a warning was issued over flu in Wales, with 51 people treated in hospital in four months.

Mrs Watts said the illness had scared her two children so much that when she returned home, her son checked her pulse in the night to make sure she was still alive.

Her asthma had put her in the at-risk category, but Mrs Watts thought she had a cold and then a chest infection before her condition nosedived.

She was admitted to Haverfordwest's Withybush Hospital where she was in the high dependency unit within 24 hours.

"The doctors told me I am lucky to be here," she said.

While her condition is improving, Mrs Watts' lungs are only working at 70% capacity and she is not well enough to return to work.

She has now been immunised for the winter, adding: "We're not going to miss out on any flu vaccination ever again. We've had a hard lesson to learn."

Her sister Sam Robinson, a nurse at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, said: "To see my twin sister so poorly like that was very traumatic."

Because of her profession, she is always immunised against flu, but added: "for me now it's not just about protecting patients - I'm urging people to do it for their families too. Like Helen said, it's the whole family that is affected, not just the person who is ill."

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