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Calgary mother shares survival story after the flu forced her into a coma

Nevada Cunnington was put into a medically induced coma for 15-days after catching the H1N1 flu virus in December.
Nevada Cunnington was put into a medically induced coma for 15-days after catching the H1N1 flu virus in December. Global News

Nevada Cunnington was a seemingly healthy 38-year-old mother from Calgary. She spent a lot of her time outdoors, hiking in the mountains and camping with her family.

But at the beginning of 2019, she became sick — so sick she could barely walk, talk or breathe.

 “I actually thought I was dying,” Cunnington said.

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Her husband rushed her to the hospital.

Doctors confirmed she had contracted the H1N1 flu virus and said it was so severe they needed to put her into a medically induced coma.

“I never would have thought in a million years that a flu would take somebody down like this,” Cunnington said.

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READ MORE: Calgary mom with H1N1 flu in medically induced coma

For 15 days, Cunnington stayed in that coma as she fought for her life.

“My soul and my heart dropped,” her daughter Kiley Webb-Cunnington said.

“I honestly thought I was going to lose my mom.”

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When Cunnington came to, she was confused and scared.

“All these things I was being told when I woke up… it was so hard to believe that all of this was going on,” she said. “Everywhere you looked on me there [were] needles, there [were] tubes.”

After two months in hospital, Cunnington was finally able to go home, but because of the impact the flu had on her lungs, she may never be able to hike in the mountains or travel by plane.

“Everything has changed,” she said.

READ MORE: Calgary woman shares previous flu coma experience in support of family waiting by ailing mother’s bedside

Calgary’s medical health officer Jia Hu said cases as severe as Cunnington’s are rare, but it isn’t surprising someone her age caught the H1N1 virus.

“H1N1 generally affects younger people,” Hu said. “Young adults, slightly older adults and children too.”

More than 6,000 people across Alberta had lab-confirmed cases of the flu this season and H1N1 was this year’s primary strain. Thirty Albertans died.

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The situation was far worse last flu season due to a more severe strain. More than 9,000 people had lab-confirmed cases of the flu with 92 Albertans dying as a result.

Hu said the flu vaccine was about 70 per cent effective this season, which is much higher than the season before.

Cunnington didn’t have her flu shot and one of the main reasons she’s sharing her story is to spread the message to get immunized.

“Get the flu shot. Please, please get the flu shot,” she said. “If you’re not going to do it for yourself, please do it for your loved ones. You don’t know what your immune system is like.”

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Cunnington started a youtube channel to share that message along with her continued fight against the after-effects of the coma.

She’s now grateful every day just to be alive.

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